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HK customs drop charges woman on trafficking formula | Updated: 2013-03-20 22:14

Hong Kong customs dropped the charges on Tuesday against a Chinese mainland woman who tried to take four cans of milk-flavored rice powder and two tins of infant milk powder over the border.

The decision was announced after members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council held a meeting and questioned a customs official about the case, Hong Kong-based Television Broadcasting Ltd reported on Tuesday night.

The latest development comes after customs authorities in Hong Kong admitted on Monday that they pressed unnecessary charges against the woman because they had misunderstood a newly enforced limit on the amount of baby formula allowed to be taken out of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said customs officers will learn from the incident and avoid mistakes in the future. He made the comments to media in Tianjin after he met with officials there.

HK customs received a bail of 1,000 Hong Kong dollars ($130) from the wrongly accused woman, 29-year-old Huang Xuejiao from Nanjing, Jiangsu province. They seized the six cans of baby food products that Huang tried to carry from Hong Kong to Shenzhen on March 15. Huang was also told to report to a Hong Kong police station on April 16 and appear in court on April 18.

Xie Weijun — a Hong Kong lawyer and a member of the Legislative Council who was present at the meeting on Tuesday — told Southern Metropolis Daily, a Guangzhou newspaper, that customs will return the bail money and the seized goods to Huang.

Xie said he believed that Hong Kong authorities will make arrangements so that Huang can get the goods and the money because it would be troublesome for her to return to Hong Kong with an entry permit for tourists.

Xie said the customs’ mistake was justifiable because the regulation used an ambiguous wording.

The vague terms Xie referred to include the definition of “powdered formula”, which according to the regulation “is or appears to be for consumption by a person aged under 36 months”.

In Huang’s case, Hong Kong customs pressed charges under the interpretation that the regulation governs both infant powder and milk-flavored rice powder, because they had similar packages and were both for consumption by infants aged six months and above.

Although the charges were dropped, Huang said on Wednesday that she remains undecided about what to do next. She said she is waiting patiently for an official response from the authorities.

In an entry on her micro blog on Wednesday, Huang attributed the good news to Hong Kong government’s respect for the truth, her friends on the social network and the media attention that the case has attracted.

Huang appealed to the social networks’ power because she felt the charges were unfair. She shared her experience online on Saturday and quickly triggered extensive media coverage and public sympathy.

“I am trying to maintain a simple life. I never imagined that such a dramatic incident could happen to me,” Huang said. “When I decided to write about my experiences, I only tried to warn other people to avoid the same hassle.”

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