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.
Raids on parallel traders don't placate Sheung Shui residents
377 visitors have been detained in five weeks, but another protest has been called for today
- Yes: 30%
- No: 10%
- Too early to tell: 60%
- Too early to tell
Suspected parallel traders were out in force at the Sheung Shui MTR station yesterday despite police and immigration officials carrying out their 13th raid in five weeks against the cross-border trade.
Police said 63 mainlanders, aged 15 to 68, were arrested on suspicion of breaching their conditions of stay, in a joint operation carried out at the Advance Technology Centre, which provides warehousing services.
The arrests were carried out ahead of a protest expected to be held today by Sheung Shui residents angered by the parallel trading conducted in their border town.
While the arrests were being carried out, almost 100 people could be seen queuing outside the town's MTR station - just 10 minutes' walk away - waiting for MTR employees to weigh and measure their baggage. The MTR Corporation recently imposed a 32kg weight limit on baggage.
Most of the 377 arrested in the raids thus far have appeared resigned when appearing in front of media cameras. But yesterday one defiant man shouted out as he was escorted to a police van: "I'll beat up any Hongkonger I see in Shenzhen in future."
He was booed by onlookers.
The MTR's baggage curbs form part of the government's strategy to crack down on parallel traders, against the backdrop of a "Reclaim Sheung Shui" movement that has led to altercations and physical conflict between Hongkongers and mainlanders.
A rally planned for today - the second wave of protests in Sheung Shui in as many weeks - will be attended by more than 3,000 protesters, according to declarations made on social media platform Facebook.
The government has sought to reassure residents that its raids against parallel traders are having a deterrent effect.
"We can't see any sign of such illegal activities staging a comeback," principal immigration officer Sham Kin-fai said.
Not everyone is happy, though. A currency trader complained of fewer customers, and said a recent appreciation in the value of yuan had also put some mainlanders off from holding Hong Kong dollars.
The yuan appreciation has reportedly encouraged mainland housewives to shop in Hong Kong for their household commodities, but Sheung Shui retailers interviewed yesterday said it was business as usual so far.