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Chinese yuan freely converted in Hongkong

A VERSION of China's black market is acted out daily in Hongkong, where dozens of money changers openly buy and sell the mainland's currency.

An estimated 50 money changers handle yuan in the territory, with about 20 located in Sheung Wan.

''Many exchangers in Tsim Sha Tsui will also convert yuan for you. But why we are more famous is because we can offer a better exchange rate. Shops in other areas always buy the currency from us,'' said the general manager of a Sheung Wan money exchanger.

Although foreigners are not supposed to take yuan out of China, once in Hongkong they can still convert the currency at the black market rate.

It is easy to buy the yuan in the mainland, but many foreigners feel they do not get a good rate on the black market there.

''We show the exchange rate on the currency board. We won't cheat our customers,'' the Sheung Wan general manager said.

But most foreigners carry only small amounts of yuan when crossing the border.

''We always advise our customers not to buy more than $3,000 yuan each time,'' the general manager said.

In addition to foreigners, hundreds of mainland Chinese gather each day in Sheung Wan to convert yuan to Hongkong dollars. The current exchange rate in Sheung Wan is 95 yuan to sell and 100 yuan to buy $100.

''The selling rate used to stand at $88 yuan for $100. But since it's rumoured that Beijing was going to freely float the currency, the rate has soared over the past two months,'' the manager said.

''The rate is floated, depending on the market demand and supply.''