Couriers plague new areas

Updated: 2013-01-04 06:35

By Fan Feifei(HK Edition)

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Cross border goods dealers moving south to avoid government curbs

Tai Po district councilors complained on Thursday that the blight of so-called parallel traders or couriers is back and spreading to Tai Po and Tai Wo railway stations just south of Sheung Shui, which had been the scene of angry confrontations last year between traders and area residents.

At Thursday's District Council meeting, several lawmakers described the parallel traders as running rampantly at Tai Po and Tai Wo stations, dispatching goods purchased in Hong Kong across the border for resale at a profit. Most of the goods involved in the cross border trade are daily necessities.

At malls close to the railway stations, local residents have complained they are no longer able to buy baby milk powder - it's being sold to traders from across the border.

William Cheung Kwok-wai, a member of Tai Po District Council, said previously the issue of parallel traders was not serious with most traders concentrated in Sheung Shui and Fanling. But in the last two months, the traders have moved to stations southward to avoid government implemented measures aimed at thwarting them, who are viewed as a nuisance among the local communities.

Cheung said the activities of the parallel traders have affected the normal lives of residents in Tai Po. "Some residents complained that they need to buy newborn baby's milk powder at Kowloon for this kind of milk powder was sold out at the shops of Tai Po. Besides, these parallel traders carrying heavy goods make the compartments of the subway very crowded", added Cheung.

"Some parallel traders dispatch goods at parking lots, which hinder parking," said Cheung. He voiced concern that the parallel traders may transfer to University station or even more remote locales in the future.

"The government, including Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, Hong Kong Police Force and Security Bureau should cooperate with mainland law-enforcement to combat parallel trading together".

Yau Wing-kwong, councilor of Tai Po District, suggested MTR Corporation (MTRC) separate the parallel traders and ordinary passengers by letting them enter different compartments, as well as to apply a charge for the goods carried on the train.

However, Yau said the most effective way would be that the Hong Kong government cooperate with mainland authorities to crack down on parallel traders.

The customs department's crackdown on courier passenger activities, which began on Sept 7 in concert with mainland authorities, has proven largely effective in reducing congestion at Lo Wu and Sheung Shui stations. Local customs officers have referred smugglers to mainland authorities for follow-up action.

An MTRC representative said at the meeting that it had formed a 39-member special inspection team to deal with parallel traders at the stations, but District Council members pointed out the team is not large enough and it lacks legal power.

The Link, which holds management rights to Tai Wo Plaza, said the company has noticed parallel traders unloading and dispatching goods at this shopping mall, and the company would seek help from police if necessary to control the problem.

While a representative from the Housing Department said at the meeting that the problem of parallel traders is not large-scale and has not affected the Tai Po district for any duration, the department will send more staff to give assistance.

Police say they have continued to pay attention to the spread of parallel traders on the East Rail Line and established a four-member team last month to collect information to learn about the sites parallel traders use, people involved in the trading and the effect on local citizens.

The police will cooperate with the Immigration Department, MTRC and the Link to combat parallel traders in the future.

(HK Edition 01/04/2013 page1)