Chinese Parliamentary Sessions 2013
March 2013 sees the annual meeting of the two legislative and consultative bodies of China, where major policies are decided and key government officials appointed. The National People's Congress (NPC) is held in the Great Hall of the People in China's capital, Beijing, and with 2,987 members, is the largest parliament in the world. It gathers alongside the People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) whose members represent various groups of society.
City's NPC delegates to highlight parallel trading woes
Parallel traders will be No 1 concern of Hong Kong deputies at NPC meeting, where they are expected to ask for tighter border controls
A tighter grip by mainland authorities on parallel traders tops the wish list of Hong Kong deputies to the national legislature and leading political advisory body.
Tightening controls on traders, who take everything from baby formula to electronics from Hong Kong for resale across the border, will be among several proposals but forward by local delegates at the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference plenary meetings.
NPC delegate Michael Tien Puk-sun said he would propose that mainland immigration and customs departments share a common database to help customs officers work out which travellers made more than one cross-border visit per day.
"The central government should allow customs to get access to travellers' entry and exit information, so that it can have sufficient data to enforce the law," Tien said.
"Now customs is a toothless tiger. Travellers can make up an excuse, saying the goods they are carrying are for their own use, because customs agents don't know how many visits an individual has made in one day."
Adopting the proposal would make it easier for customs officials to decide who to stop and search, Tien said.
Parallel traders have been accused of hogging supplies of products, especially infant formula, and causing inconvenience to passengers on the East Rail Line. The problem has stoked tensions between Hongkongers and mainlanders, and led the government to limit anyone leaving the city to carrying no more than two cans of infant formula, a rule that came into effect yesterday.
Brave Chan Yung, a new delegate to the NPC and a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the parallel trading "has been unfavourable to public order and transport. The parallel-goods traders who brought Hong Kong goods across the border, bit by bit, have affected the normal flow of people".
He urged mainland authorities to bar those found guilty of parallel trading from entering Hong Kong for a period.
"Repeat offenders should be banned from entry for several years, to serve as a deterrent," he said.
Chan called on mainland authorities to put first-time parallel trading offenders under monitoring, and to increase funding for customs and immigration departments.
But some NPC and CPPCC delegates expressed reservations about another suggestion for ending the parallel trading problem.
They say altering the terms of the individual visit scheme, introduced in 2003, to ban travellers from crossing into Hong Kong more than once a day would restrict freedom of travel for non-traders.
Delegates are also planning to raise other concerns, over issues such as cross-border economic co-operation and trade, as well as social and educational matters.
David Wong Yau-kar, honorary president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong and an NPC delegate, said he might ask the authorities to relax rules forcing Hongkongers who receive an income on the mainland to pay mainland taxes if they spend more than 183 days there.
He said the rules should take into account the fact that some such workers spend part of their time on the mainland for leisure purposes. He also said the day of arrival and the day of departure should be counted as half days.
Wong also said he might call for measures to boost cross-border co-operation in areas like trade and professional services.
In view of the problems some local businessmen have had in enforcing trademark claims across the border, Tien said he would propose that courts nationwide be more consistent in their handling of such cases, to avoid injustice.
Another NPC delegate, Miriam Lau Kin-yee, said she would suggest that mainland authorities simplify the physical checks carried out on cross-border drivers. She said the tests should focus on problems like eyesight and colour blindness, which have direct implications for road safety.