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.
1,000 suspected parallel traders arrested last year
Some 1,065 mainlanders and 12 of their local employers were arrested last year for suspected parallel-goods trading activities, the Immigration Department said yesterday.
And 12,800 mainlanders were denied entry to Hong Kong in the same period for suspected involvement in such trading, it said.
A total of 142 mainlanders were ultimately convicted, receiving sentences of between four weeks and two months.
Details of mainlanders convicted of illegal employment in the city would be passed to mainland authorities for cancellation of their exit endorsements and they would be banned from visiting Hong Kong for two years, Director of Immigration Chan Kwok-ki said.
Chan also said the department would look into cases where the contracts of foreign domestic helpers were ended early, after reports of helpers deliberately attempting to get themselves fired in order to receive severance pay. "We've seen that some would accuse their employers of not paying enough salary or giving enough holidays and then sue the employers … but we found that it is not uncommon [for helpers] to not attend hearings and for the allegations to be untrue," Chan said.
If maids repeatedly failed to attend hearings then the department would consider the case suspicious and their applications for an extension of stay in Hong Kong would be rejected, he said. Some 160 such applications were rejected during the second half of last year.
Last year the city received 54.3 million visitors, of which 40.5 million were from the mainland, a rise of 11.7 per cent and 16.8 per cent, respectively, from 2012. Over 277 million people passed through the city's border control points, up 3.6 per cent from 2012.
Almost eight million visitors are expected to enter Hong Kong during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
Chan admitted that immigration officers were under a great deal of stress, particularly during rush hours on Saturdays as mainlanders arrived and departed. The department will hire 210 officers and assistant officers this year, while 110 officers will retire.