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.
East Rail Line users stung by new luggage limits
Baggage restrictions designed to curb parallel-goods trading are penalising local couriers and normal travellers over the Lunar New Year
Luggage limits on the East Rail Line, designed to deter parallel-goods traders, caused problems for regular travellers yesterday.
With the weight limit slashed from 32kg to 23kg, airport and mainland-bound travellers and couriers carrying goods within the city for local companies were caught in the net to restrict parallel-goods trading.
Meanwhile, the security chief said 600 suspected parallel-goods traders from Shenzhen had been turned back at the border as part of the effort to curb the trade and ease a shortage of infant milk formula.
"The number of parallel-goods traders coming to Hong Kong has dropped, which means there have been fewer packed goods … carried by these traders," Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said on RTHK.
"By strengthening the list of suspected parallel-goods carriers [and] questioning suspected traders … immigration control has been reinforced."
But normal passengers trying to get their luggage onto the MTR trains were not impressed.
The policy took effect a week before Lunar New Year, when passengers were already beginning their exodus to the mainland to visit friends and relatives.
"There are only some clothes and souvenirs with my luggage," said Ms Lam, whose luggage was rejected when she tried to board a train at Fo Tan to her hometown in Shanwei, eastern Guangdong. "I couldn't even buy something more for people I know."
Weight scales have been installed at Fo Tan and Tai Po Market stations, which have recently seen a surge in parallel-goods traders.
In Fo Tan, security staff said about 10 people were found to be carrying overweight luggage. Some, who were deemed unlikely to be traders, were "discretionarily" allowed through.
Fo Tan is a centre for dozens of logistics and delivery firms whose staff rely on quick railway transport. Ms Choi, a carrier for Ricoh, had her luggage passed yesterday, but feared it would not be in future if she were to carry heavier items, such as printers.
"Sometimes I go to Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai and MTR is the most convenient [mode of transport]," Choi told an MTR staff member. "The company has asked me to work it out [under the new limit]. Do you want me to lose my job?"
Mr Lee, a middle-aged messenger, was carrying two big boxes and a nylon bag full of documents on a trolley, weighing 26.5 kg in total. "The parallel-goods trading has upset me. I have a proper job. How could I be treated in the same manner as them?" he said.
At Sheung Shui, parallel-goods traders were still seen operating, but carrying smaller packages than before.
Despite the disappearance of the previous long queues outside the station, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man warned of a resurgence after the Lunar New Year.
"Though the activities have seemed quieter in the past few days, I daren't say it is entirely the result of our crackdown effort," he said.
Additional reporting by Emily Tsang