CHINESE Vice-Premier Li Lanqing finally has given official recognition to a serious problem which both the Hong Kong police and the Royal Navy have suspected for some time. He criticised sharply local cadres who work with smugglers on the Guangdong and Guangxi borders. He did not single out the Hong Kong border. However, his criticism can be assumed to apply on the eastern shore of Guangdong province, as it does on the border with Vietnam. His strictures have particular significance coming, as they do, in the midst of China's anti-corruption campaign. However half-hearted and selective that campaign has been across the country, the singling out of border staff by so senior an official may mean their actions will come under particularly close scrutiny. If so, that can only be of benefit to Hong Kong, which has had only partial and intermittent success in persuading Guangdong officials to tackle smuggling as a top priority. While Guangdong officials may resent the interference of the central government in their lucrative smuggling rake-offs, they may have to show a degree of co-operation with their Hong Kong counterparts which has not always been evident in recent years. Smuggling remains a serious problem in both directions across the Sino-Hong Kong border. Smugglers are often armed and will stop at nothing - including violence and murder - to escape the attentions of either the Hong Kong or the Chinese police. It is vitally important that both sides take cross-border co-operation seriously, share intelligence fully and liaise effectively in anti-smuggling operations to prevent unnecessary incursions into each other's territory. Mr Li pointed out that smuggling can be brought under control only when local cadres take a firm hand. If that salutary reminder leads to the arrest and conviction of a few more smugglers - and puts Guangdong Public Security Bureau and border officials on their best behaviour into the bargain - it will be worth far more than any number of vague promises at meetings with Hong Kong officials.