New measures to limit the amount of milk formula transported from Hong Kong into the mainland have sparked fervent but divided opinion across social media.
The new regulation, which went into effect on Friday, bars travellers from taking more than 1.8kg, or two cans, of milk powder out of Hong Kong.
Many mainland netizens criticised the Hong Kong government for being protectionist and even for “biting the hand that feeds them”.
“Hong Kong is always championing its free market laurels. Do they think about all the fresh water, vegetables and grain [the mainland] supplies to them?” one wrote on microblogging site Sina Weibo.
“They repeatedly talk about human rights…but this is how they treat their compatriots?”
“I think the Hong Kong government went too far on this milk powder issue. They only care about the children of Hong Kong and none of the children from the mainland,” said one user on Sina Weibo.
Outspoken Taiwanese-American IT mogul and former Google executive Kai-Fu Lee – banned from Weibo recently – tweeted on Friday: “HK should be ashamed” about the new law. He joked that mainland authorities did not limit the number of mistresses Hong Kong men kept in China.
Not all mainland netizens opposed the ban. Many pointed to the fundamental problem of poor food safety standards on the mainland and blamed the central government for the whole debacle.
“None of this would be happening if our government were able to ensure milk powder were safe for consumption. This is the key,” another Weibo user said.
“Why is there is a consumer confidence crisis on the mainland? Testing organisations don’t do their jobs here. I feel like the only organisation that seems to be filtering out stuff that needs filtering is Sarft [China’s media censor],” another wrote.
Some mainland tourists said the ban had reduced the number of mainlanders flooding into Hong Kong significantly and made it easier to travel.
“It took me less than two hours to come back as there were very few people going through Hong Kong immigration. I could not believe my eyes. Easy shopping, great comfort,” said one blogger from Shenzhen.
At the weekend, 25 people were arrested at border checkpoints for breaching the new restrictions. Among the arrests were 17 Hong Kong residents and eight mainlanders, according the Secretary for Security. More than 115 cans of formula have been seized.