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.
Border-town residents say traders cost them dear
An overwhelming majority of border-town residents blame parallel-goods traders for driving up prices locally, according to a survey released yesterday.
As many as 82 per cent said people who bought products in Hong Kong to sell at a premium on the mainland were pushing up the cost of necessities in their neighbourhood.
Their view was supported by 73 per cent of 100 retailers who were questioned along with the 705 Sheung Shui and Fanling residents in the survey commissioned by North District Council.
The survey found everyday items like shampoo and disinfectant were more expensive compared with nearly 20 kilometres away in Yuen Long, with Dettol costing HK$11.60 more at HK$61.60 and Brand's Bird's Nest jelly costing HK$44.30 more at HK$225.30.
The survey also found that the price for infant milk formula in Sheung Shui was among the lowest in the city. A tin of one Dutch brand, for instance, was HK$70 cheaper than in Tai Po.
The poll was conducted in February - right before the government's two-tin restrictions on infant milk powder. It has been one of the most sought-after products for parallel-goods traders due to mistrust in mainland brands following a series of food-safety scandals in recent years.
Only 12 per cent of those questioned said the authorities had done enough to crack down on mainland-bound parallel-goods traders at that time.
Some 57 per cent of retailers conceded that the mainlanders had created goods shortages, while 80 per cent of residents believed there had been shortages in shops because of the traders.
However, the survey found, overall, supply was sufficient in local stores when compared with other districts in the city.
More than half of the interviewees wanted to see new restrictions on mainlanders' multiple-entry permits.
Only 20 per cent of the residents said the scheme should stay the same or expand. Some wanted to see the number of visas granted halved.
Few acknowledged the traders had any positive impact - only 13 per cent of residents said these mainlanders "enhanced cross-border cultural exchanges".