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Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Driver caught allegedly smuggling more than 600 hairy crabs worth HK$60,000 into Hong Kong from mainland China

  • Man, 39, caught in joint operation involving customs and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department at Lok Ma Chau
  • Those convicted of smuggling unmanifested cargo face seven years in jail and maximum fine of HK$2 million
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 6:31pm

A male driver was caught allegedly smuggling more than 600 hairy crabs into Hong Kong from mainland China at the end of the peak season for the delicacy.

Officials said the seized crabs – packed in 10 baskets – had an estimated value of HK$60,000 (US$7,700).

The man was caught in a joint operation involving the Customs and Excise Department and Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) on Saturday. He had entered the city via the Lok Ma Chau Control Point in a private car, officials said.

Upon further inspection, customs officers found 624 hairy crabs in the car, which they suspected were unmanifested cargo.

“The 39-year-old male driver was arrested and has been put on bail pending further investigation,” a customs spokesman said. “Investigations are ongoing.”

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, anyone convicted of smuggling unmanifested cargo faces seven years in jail and a maximum fine of HK$2 million.

How Shanghai hairy crabs get to your plate and ways to cook them

The spokesman added the two departments would continue to work together and exchange intelligence to combat the smuggling of food.

Retail sector lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai said it had been difficult for local vendors to import hairy crabs from the mainland after the FEHD introduced a safety level for dioxins last year.

Shiu said suppliers across the border were dissatisfied with the new requirement and hesitant to ship to Hong Kong, as it required an extra step of getting health certificates from mainland authorities.

In July, the FEHD further introduced a new permit for selling hairy crabs to enhance regulation of the product and address food safety concerns. Vendors are required to meet hygiene standards including being equipped with a refrigerator and a sink for those handling the crabs to wash their hands.

Hairy crabs finally arrive in Hong Kong, but vendors aren’t happy

Since September, only vendors with the permit have been allowed to sell hairy crabs.

Offenders face a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and six months in jail.

The peak season for the delicacy is from October to late November with the most sought-after crabs from the mainland’s Jiangsu province, where two popular breeding grounds – Yangcheng Lake and Lake Tai – are found.

Steven Chu Kar-cheong of retailer Wah Kee Wing Cheong Ho said it was unlikely that local shops would take smuggled hairy crabs.

“Cheap prices alone are not enough, customers also value quality,” Chu said, while conceding he was not sure about the volume of hairy crabs being smuggled into the city.

According to official figures, a small cargo of 100kg of hairy crabs was shipped directly from the mainland to Hong Kong in August.

A larger shipment of 7,000kg of mainland crabs was re-exported from South Korea to Hong Kong at the end of October.