• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 1:40pm
NewsHong Kong

Woman held at Hong Kong border for 'breaking milk limit' - with rice cereal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 March, 2013, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 3:44pm

A mainland woman said she was detained at the border last week for breaking Hong Kong's two-tin limit on milk powder exports because she thought rice-based milk cereal for infants was not affected by the new restrictions.

The regulations, which came into effect on March 1, limit unlicensed exports of powdered infant formula to two cans or 1.8kg and are meant to address local fears of a milk powder shortage as mainland traders buy up supplies in Hong Kong to sell across the border. Milk powder is generally less expensive and seen to be safer in Hong Kong.

The woman, Huang Xuejiao, said she did not know powdered rice milk cereal was included in the rule and said she asked customs officials at Lok Ma Chau more than once. 

“When I was entering Hong Kong, I asked customs officials whether rice milk powder was part of the limit and they told me only milk powder was, milk rice was not,” she wrote in a weibo post under the name Nan Juejue, which has since been circulated on the internet.

Rice milk, a type of grain milk processed from rice, is an alternative to milk to infants who are lactose intolerant or allergic to cow’s milk and soy. 

According to the new import and export regulations, all unlicensed exports of powdered formula for infants and children under 36 months are restricted to two-cans per person. This includes any “milk or milk-like substance in powder form” such as milk powder and soya milk powder. Rice milk is not specifically mentioned. Offenders can face a maximum fine of HK$500,000 and two years' imprisonment.

Huang, from eastern China's Jiangsu province, was caught with two tins of baby formula weighing 1.8kg and four cans of Friso-brand rice-based milk cereal weighing 1.2kg in her luggage. 

She said she was detained* by customs officials had to pay HK$1,000 to bail herself out. Asked for comment, Huang told the South China Morning Post that rumours spreading on the internet that she was treated rudely by customs officials, may have been overblown.

"I understand they were just following procedure," she said, adding that she still liked Hong Kong as a city because it was "clean and orderly" and would do more research regarding laws on any place she visits in the future. 

The Customs and Excise Department acknowledged the case. A spokesman told the Post that because the rice-based cereal powder contained milk content and was packaged in "similar containers" as milk powder, customs officers were under the impression they were subject to the new regulations.

"After we were given the relevant information from the suppliers, we learned that this was baby food in solid form and therefore, not subject to the new regulations. This is an isolated case and customs officials are following up with the case."

Huang said neither customs nor the police have informed her of the new assessment. She said she was excited to hear about it and would contact Hong Kong customs to see if she was still due to show up for an April 18 court date.


*Correction: An earlier version said Huang Xuejiao was detained by Hong Kong customs for 48 hours. She said she did not stay the night in custody because she bailed herself out for HK$1,000.


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This article is now closed to comments

Hong Kong is becoming a joke! I guess this is what happens when you rush to implement poorly thought-out regulations before they have been vetted and explained to the staff implmenting them. This lady sounds magnanimous. Why should she have to contact HK customs. Not only should they contact her and return her bail money, but the HK Tourism board should treat her and her family to a week-long luxury vacation here.
Indeed I also agree that this lady is magnanimous considering the circumstances.
Also I don't understand why these god damn good for nothing milk powder companies can't keep up with the demand and need the government to take hamfisted measures that undermine HK as a free port.
Hong Kong custom is an experienced but shame on them for arresting the lady without having full information. They kept her for 48 hours for what? Losers modifying and twisting the law as they like. they should apologies to her and Hong Kong government should pay her damages. i believe she must have inquired when coming to Hong Kong about this because she was carrying only two cans with her. Long live China and loser HongKongkers.
The officers need to be sued into the court. They "defamed" and wasted the lady's time.
Customs should go and return the money proactively if they are at fault. Law goes 2 ways. Those who break it get fined and those wrongly accused should get compensated.
"rumours spreading on the internet that she was treated rudely by customs officials, may have been overblown" Rumours spread by nationalist!!!


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