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.
Scuffles in Sheung Shui as parallel traders return in growing numbers
Sheung Shui residents take issue with traders again just months after limit on milk formula
Scuffles broke out in Sheung Shui yesterday between parallel-goods traders and residents, who complained the cross-border smuggling trade has again become rampant in the district.
Residents' protests died down in March after a new law came into force limiting to two tins the amount of infant formula - one of the items most heavily trafficked by parallel-goods traders - each outbound traveller may carry.
Protesters said yesterday they had found a large number of parallel-goods traders distributing formula milk on streets and in parks and complained that they were obstructing pedestrians and creating a nuisance.
The protesters first went to spots where traders often sell their goods and then to the town's MTR station, where they told traders to have their bags weighed in line with railway rules. Scuffles occurred when the protesters and traders began pushing each other.
North District councillor Law Sai-yan, of the Democratic Party, said the number of parallel-goods traders had increased recently after a decline following the introduction of the new law.
He said some traders were still carrying formula milk across the border, but many were switching to foods such as instant noodles, which are also in demand.
"They are more confident in food sold in Hong Kong," Law said. "They may not be able to carry a lot of formula milk to the mainland after the ban, but other food is in demand."
Since the legislation came into force, the government has been working with formula milk producers, retailers and consumers to stabilise supply.
Health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said yesterday that the restriction could be lifted if those measures proved to be effective.