Mainlanders hired illegally to work at wholesale markets are being paid three times less than local employees, immigration officers say.
Investigators raided Cheung Sha Wan wholesale vegetable market yesterday and arrested 22 suspected illegal workers.
Chief Immigration Officer Chan Kwok-lun said the mainlanders earned as little as $60 a day for unloading vegetables from lorries and had to work at least seven hours. A local worker would receive $220 for the same effort.
'They claimed they lived in abandoned rooftop huts or relatives' homes. They sneaked into the market at about 4am and asked for jobs from stall operators. They normally left at about 11am,' said Mr Chan, who believed the IIs came job-hunting after mainland friends told them there was work.
Yesterday about 80 immigration and police officers raided the market and arrested 22 mainlanders. No employers were picked up.
'[The workers] tried to flee when we blocked all the exits and raided the market. Two climbed to the ceiling of the single-storey market while others hid under trucks or behind baskets,' said Mr Chan.
He admitted it was difficult to catch the employers as the workers refused to say who hired them.
The 22 male suspects - all two-way permit holders allowed to stay in Hong Kong for sightseeing for up to three months - were still being held last night.
Mr Chan said it was the sixth time the market had been raided since December 1998.