Students from Shenzhen exploited to smuggle goods across border

Kids are being offered cash rewards to carry phones and electronic goods across border

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 September, 2012, 3:00am

Cross-boundary pupils are being pestered by grey-market traders into smuggling goods across the border, a social service group recently revealed.

In one case, according to International Social Service (ISS), a bus nanny put cellphones into the bags of all her young passengers, who were later caught by Customs officers.

This emerged from a survey of problems faced by children who travel from Shenzhen to Hong Kong to attend school.

Cheung Yuk-ching, director of the ISS cross-boundary service programme, said there had been "quite a few" such cases where students were caught smuggling electronic goods for parallel traders and bus nannies.

"Younger students are not aware of the problem as some of their parents or strangers put them up to it. They do not know how to refuse," said Cheung. "But some secondary students were tempted by cash rewards given to them if they brought laptops across the border."

More than 80 per cent of 350 teachers interviewed by ISS for the survey said more resources were needed to help such pupils. More than a third of the teachers said they needed more safety awareness education.

Other issues included frequent loss of identity documents by younger children, difficulty in adapting at school and the danger of sexual harassment at crowded border crossings.

Cheung said a teacher once had to let a primary school pupil live in her home for a week because the child had lost her permit to return home and it took a long time for a new one to arrive.

Wong Yim-ping, who is in charge of the Lo Wu cross-boundary students' service centre, said it was important for children to be aware of possible harassment and taught how to protect themselves.

"It is usually very crowded at the border. Some children told their friends and teachers that some strangers made them uncomfortable when they stepped too close to them," she said. "They do not know how to tell if they were harassed."

More than half of the teachers interviewed said that the cross-border pupils' English skills were not on a par with those of Hong Kong pupils, while a third related behavioural problems from pupils with complicated family backgrounds.

Teachers said they hoped more resources could be given to subsidise after-school tutorials and that more could be done to help troubled families who could not travel freely to Hong Kong.

Cheung said: "Cross-boundary social workers can [help to] bridge the gap between the school and the families."