Milk powder restriction a formula for heated debate at congress
Criticism flies as delegates get wound up about HK curb on baby powder
A curb on baby milk formula has prompted fiery debate among deputies and delegates in Beijing for the annual meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Some mainland deputies accused Beijing of failing to improve food safety, while others said they were offended by the tough penalties put in place by Hong Kong.
The restrictions also met with criticism from some Hong Kong deputies and delegates, with NPC deputy Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai calling on the Hong Kong government to review the policy of restricting mainlanders to two cans of formula.
Li Xiaolin, a Beijing-based businessman and CPPCC delegate, said he would not let his two-year-old grandson consume mainland-made milk powder.
"I hope my grandson will be fed a good milk formula," he said. "The new restriction on baby formula also prompts one question - why have the mainland authorities and the dairy industry failed to solve the problem?"
The Hong Kong government introduced the two-can restriction on Friday.
Offenders face a maximum fine of HK$500,000 and up to two years' jail.
Another CPPCC delegate, Wang Xudong , said Hong Kong's actions was "a bit over the top".
"It just takes care of local children without considering our mainland babies," he said. "They not only confiscate offenders' milk powder, they also want to put them in jail."
Another CPPCC delegate, Professor Wang Donglin , from Jiangxi Normal University, urged Beijing and the dairy industry to unite to save the country's food safety image.
"Once you lose your credibility, it will take a long time to rebuild it," he said.
Speaking after the NPC preparatory meeting yesterday, Fan said mainlanders were strongly opposed to Hong Kong's curbs.
"When the problem is eased, the government should consider lifting the ban on the condition that it would not cause inconvenience to travellers and Hongkongers," Fan said.
Henry Tang Ying-yen, a CPPCC delegate and former chief secretary, also said he hoped the curbs would be temporary.
"Baby formula is sold on the free market," he said. "I believe baby formula suppliers are willing to do more business if there is a surge in demand."
Another CPPCC delegate, Liberal Party honorary chairman and Tourism Board chairman James Tien Pei-chun, said his party would oppose the bill to impose the restrictions when it was tabled in the Legislative Council.