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.
36 people arrested in parallel trading raids in Fo Tan and Sheung Shui
Immigration and police extend joint crackdown on importers, making first arrests in Fo Tan
Immigration officers extended their joint operation with police against parallel importers to Fo Tan, arresting 36 people in the past two days - and warned they may hold regular raids in future until the trade is wiped out
The Immigration Department and police had arrested 173 traders in four previous operations, mainly in Sheung Shui and Fanling.
But they extended the "battlefront" to Fo Tan on Thursday, making six arrests in two industrial buildings, and 30 more yesterday in Sheung Shui.
Principal immigration officer Wong Yin-sang said officers arrested three men holding two-way permits in an industrial building in Fo Tan who were packing shampoo and snacks.
They also arrested a Hong Kong man who had recruited them. Two more men with two-way permits were arrested in another industrial building as they packed tablet computers.
"We are studying the possibility with police of regularising our operations. This would continue until such activities were fully clamped down," Wong said. "Our battlefront will be extended further. Sometimes it will be at district level, sometimes it will be citywide."
Wong said 80 police and immigration officers raided Cambridge Plaza in Sheung Shui and arrested 30 two-way permit holders. Police also issued summonses to seven Hong Kong residents, charging them with obstructing public places.
Armed with search warrants, officers also raided two flats in Sheung Shui. Two Hong Kong women were found packing more than 100 cameras in a flat on the Tin Ping Estate. Another search in the Sheung Shui Centre yielded nothing.
Though the women had not breached any immigration law, Wong said they would refer the cases to the Housing Authority and Inland Revenue Department to see if they had breached any public housing law and if their activities involved any tax evasion.
Wong believed some parallel traders were controlled by syndicates. "We believe the interest involved is very big and their activities are organised," he said.
Meanwhile, more than half of Hong Kong residents say the individual visit scheme for mainlanders should be tightened, a survey of 755 people by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of Chinese University found.
The survey also found about 70 per cent thought mainland individual visitors pushed up inflation and shop rents, while 62.8 per cent felt they brought more security problems. But 60.3 per cent admitted they helped the local economy, showing residents had contradicting attitudes.
Dr Victor Zheng Wan-tai, who conducted the survey, said issues like parallel traders had deepened anti-mainlander sentiment and the government should tackle the problem.