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.
Plan to limit Shenzhen-Hong Kong border crossings
Mainland authorities may restrict multi-trip permits for Shenzhen residents coming to Hong Kong in bid to curb parallel trading
- Yes: 76%
- No: 24%
Mainland authorities may limit the number of times Shenzhen residents can cross the Hong Kong border in a day as part of efforts to clamp down on parallel trading.
An anti-smuggling office of the Guangdong government has announced that several agencies are looking into the possibility of imposing restrictions on the multiple-trip permits given to Shenzhen permanent residents, which are now unlimited.
This comes after official statistics showed traders buying goods in Hong Kong for resale in Shenzhen without paying import tax make up 95 per cent of those who cross the border with the permits, with just 5 per cent being genuine tourists.
It also follows protests by residents of New Territories border towns about disruption and price increases caused by the traders that led to crackdowns by Hong Kong enforcers.
North District Council chairman So Sai-chi said restrictions on trips would cut the number of traders in Sheung Shui.
"There are no laws to ban parallel trading, so more and more people join the fray … their numbers grow bigger before festivals such as Christmas and Lunar New Year when demand for consumer products is keen on the mainland," he said.
But a spokesman for Hong Kong's Security Bureau said yesterday the proposals should be studied with caution. Their effectiveness, impact on tourists and Hong Kong's image as Asia's world city should be considered.
Apart from curbs on visits, the Guangdong Provincial Maritime Defence and Anti-smuggling Office said on its website that authorities were considering a separate channel for people making multiple crossings to make baggage checks easier. It said this could be done with improvements to the computer system that would trigger a light when frequent crossers were identified, enabling immigration officers to send them to the special channel.
The proposals were mentioned during a meeting between mainland authorities - including Customs, Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and Beijing's Hong Kong liaison office - and Hong Kong's Security Bureau at the end of October.
So said the traders had become more orderly since the MTR imposed size restrictions on luggage and authorities stepped up prosecutions against illegal workers. But the number of traders queuing outside the Sheung Shui MTR station had risen.
Another councillor, Law Sai-yan, said a limit of two trips a day by Shenzhen residents would be acceptable. Apart from parallel traders, there could be legitimate merchants needing to travel back and forth more than once a day.