The influx of parallel traders who buy their stock tax-free in Hong Kong to resell it in mainland China at a profit is causing growing unrest. Residents of Sheung Shui, a town close to China's border, say the increase in parallel importers has pushed up retail prices and causes a general nuisance. Importers argue that their trade benefits the Hong Kong economy.
Police arrest more parallel traders amid crackdown
Law enforcement agencies vowed to crack down on parallel traders near the border as they made a second series of arrests on mainlander traders this week in North district on Friday afternoon.
The latest arrests – 5 men and 3 women, all of whom hold two-way permits – were made at an industrial centre some 10 minutes’ walk from Sheung Shui MTR station, a hot location that parallel traders use to transport their wares back to the mainland.
Immigration and police officers who jointly conduct the operation also served summons to three other Hongkongers involved in the trade at a shopping centre nearby for obstructing public access.
Principal immigration officer Wong Yin-sang said the mainlanders were arrested on suspicion of breaching conditions of stay by illegally working in Hong Kong.
“Our strategy is to take law enforcement action at any time and at any location, with a view to cracking down on the source,” Wong said.
This was the second arrest of mainlanders amid snowballing discontent among residents in border areas over parallel goods traders.
On Wednesday, the police and the Immigration Department arrested 131 mainland parallel traders in a crackdown launched after the government promised to cope with what residents see as an increasing problem.
Of the 131 people arrested previously, Wong said eight people – four men and four women – had now been charged with breaching conditions of stay. The remaining 123 had all been repatriated and put on a watch list by the Immigration Department.
“Although no prosecution has been laid against these 123 people, we have put them on our watch list. On their next visit to Hong Kong we will ask them the purpose of their visit in detail. If there is anything suspicious, we will deny them entry,” Wong said.
The so-called parallel traders stock up on everything from iPads to milk powder, taking advantage of lower prices and a wider choice in the city – and avoid paying large duties on the goods on their return.
Sheung Shui residents staged protests this week against the traders, who they say are a nuisance. Officials said mainlanders caught illegally working in the city risk having their travel permits cancelled.