The toy industry has become a scapegoat for the widening trade rifts between the mainland and US, the chairman of Hong Kong SME Progress and Investment Association said yesterday.
Chiu Che-hon, who is also a toymaker, claimed that the designs and the materials used to make the toys were all approved by the American buyers before they were shipped to the US. Mr Chiu insisted the Hong Kong-funded factories 'would not use substandard materials'.
The chairman hit out at the American buyers, saying their accusation of unsafe products were 'totally unfair' and were merely excuses for them to return stock which they could not sell.
'In the Mattel case, I was told that some toys manufactured last year, which had passed the safety tests, were again tested this year according to a set of safety standards released only most recently,' he said. 'When these old toys failed to pass the new standards, they were recalled.'
He added that the tests were not carried out by the US government, but by the buyers themselves.
Mr Chiu said mainland toy factories would soon be fighting a war on two fronts as mainland authorities were set to impose a levy up to 100 per cent on raw materials imported from Hong Kong on August 23.
More than 20 Hong Kong-funded toy factories were forced to shut down this year and he feared more might close in the coming years.
Mr Chiu said more than 100 factories affiliated with the association had stopped production since the toy recall. 'They are on the brink of going under but the Hong Kong government is ignoring our difficulties,' he said.
Meanwhile, Clement Chen Cheng-jen, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said the recalls had inflicted heavy damage on the image and reputation of the Hong Kong toy industry. He said overseas importers were increasingly aware of product safety and manufacturers should handle the issue carefully.
'Manufacturers have always found it difficult to comply with different product safety standards applied in different countries, such as the EU, US and Japan,' he said.