Milk powder beats out heroin in smuggling arrests - huh?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 April, 2013, 11:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 January, 2015, 3:32pm

Bloomberg takes an odd angle on milk-powder smuggling in Hong Kong.

"Milk smugglers top heroin courier arrests in Hong Kong"

But isn’t that comparing apples with oranges? Clamping down on an illegal addictive substance requires a different operation than enforcing limits on a food staple such as baby formula.

In the story, the second paragraph says more people have been arrested for taking across more than two cans of baby formula across the border than those held for carrying heroin. It then goes into food safety issues on the mainland and how they have created a chain effect around the world. The article doesn’t get to the drug specifics until the end, but the connection is tenuous.

As of April 23, 879 people were arrested, with 8,841 kilograms of powdered milk seized, Calvin Lee, a press officer, said in an e-mail. Last year, 420 people were arrested by border officials for having restricted drugs. Of those, 81 had heroin, 81 carried cocaine and 161 had ketamine.

The milk-powder restrictions went into effect on March 1, and since then, customs officials have been expected to watch for violations of the rule much more closely. Drug smugglers have had years of practise eluding authorities.

The story with the catchy headline has been picked up by Western media organisations, including Quartz, the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Edmonton Journal in Canada, among others.

A columnist for the New Zealand Herald leads with the drug link but goes on to say that restrictions on milk formula may cause “a risk of a 19th century gold rush mentality ... unregulated, wild west stuff”.

Efforts by local exporters to form an industry association to keep control of the New Zealand brand are admirable but have not been fully inclusive and have caused conflict within the fast-growing sector.

It looks as though it might be time for the Government to take a serious look at how New Zealand's reputation is being managed.

Certainly, the heroin connection is attention-grabbing, but its apparent attempt to cast Hong Kong customs' priorities as misaligned may be a stretch.

Refugees on the march

Al Jazeera reports on the protest on Saturday by asylum seekers struggling for rights in Hong Kong. The Post and the Hong Wrong blog also reported on the march.

Other coverage, April 22-27

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