Parallel trading

Chinese woman in milk formula blunder hits back at Hong Kong Customs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 11:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 March, 2013, 9:00am

The mainland woman mistakenly charged with flouting the two-tin limit on infant milk formula has criticised Hong Kong customs officials for not saying sorry.

"They gave no apology when they called me yesterday evening, but just told me bluntly that I needed to travel to Hong Kong in person to collect my HK$1,000 bail money and the six cans they confiscated," Huang Xuejiao, 29, told the South China Morning Post.

"If it wasn't my fault, why should I pay for the trip?" added Huang, who lives in Nanjing , in the eastern province of Jiangsu , some 1,200 kilometres away as the crow flies.

Huang was detained by the Customs and Excise Department last week after they mistook all six tins in her luggage for milk formula when four of them contained rice-based baby cereal instead.

New rules limit unlicensed exports of powdered formula for children under 36 months to two cans per traveller. This includes any "milk or milk-like substance in powder form", including soya milk powder.

Customs withdrew the charge against Huang after realising rice cereal was not subject to the new regulations. They said Huang would get back her HK$1,000 in bail money as well as the six seized tins.

Huang said she had not made up her mind about whether to travel to Hong Kong as instructed and did not know what she would do next.

A customs department spokesman told the Post that officers "were still in contact with Huang".

They did not comment on whether travel arrangements would be made for her.

Since the incident, at least two other mainland residents have claimed they were also wrongly charged, according to a Southern Metropolis Daily report yesterday.

It quoted a woman from Shenzhen who said she was wrongly detained on Tuesday after she tried to take two cans of powdered infant formula and five cans of powdered whole-milk for adults across the border.

Until yesterday, Customs had contacted 12 people to arrange for the return of bail money and confiscated products, a spokesman said. On the other hand, 17 cases of breaching the export quota were successfully prosecuted from March 1 to 18.