Veg smuggling claims a hoax and we may sue, says Shenzhen
Joshua But and He Huifeng
Shenzhen authorities may sue Hong Kong media over reports earlier this month about vegetables being smuggled into the city from unauthorised mainland farms, saying they believe the allegations were a hoax.
But local vegetable traders said the incident, witnessed by a district councillor who visited the Nanshan distribution market undercover, reflected loopholes in how mainland authorities issue labels for vegetables exported to Hong Kong.
Vegetable traders and North District councillor Jimmy Law Sai-yan said early this month that cigarettes and pork were also found being smuggled into Hong Kong with vegetables given legitimate labels.
Denying the reports yesterday, Xie Yuehua, deputy director of the Shenzhen entry-exit inspection and quarantine bureau, said the case was 'obviously self-serving'. She said an investigation found 'Sai Fay' - quoted in the reports as saying he would label vegetables from unauthorised farms with legitimate stickers for a bribe of 900 yuan - was a Hong Kong resident who worked for local transport companies.
Reports quoted Law as saying Sai Fay 'could transport anything to Hong Kong as long as people could pay'. But Xie said no officials had had anything to do with Sai Fay. '[He] has never owned farms on the mainland registered for the Hong Kong vegetable trade. He knows no people from our bureau or relevant enterprises.'
Xie said the mainland vegetable enterprises involved in the rumours had complained to the police, while the bureau would reserve the right to sue Hong Kong media - which she did not name - over 'fake' reports.
Law, a Democratic Party district councillor, could not be reached for comment last night but a vegetable traders' group said loopholes had been exposed in the case. Yuen Cheung, chairman of the Hong Kong Imported Vegetable Wholesale Merchants' Association, said mainland authorities should take responsibility to monitor labelling of vegetables.
'The Nanshan market is the only place where some 700 registered farms can get the legitimate labels to supply vegetables to Hong Kong,' he said. 'The case has demonstrated that vegetables from unauthorised sources can also get the labels.'
About 200 local vegetable traders would sign a petition today to urge the government to monitor food safety at the source, Yuen said.