Shek Wu Hui Smugglers Shop Report As At June 2015
In June, North District Parallel Imports Concern Group conducted a research on the numbers of shops that are tailored solely for Chinese Individual Visit Scheme “tourists”. According to the research, in Shek Wu Hui (excluding Landmark North), there are a total of 243 of these shops: 49 of them are pharmacies, 42 Traditional Chinese Medicine and dried seafood shops and 33 money changers. The number of smugglers shops (they stock up products and pay commission to individual smugglers to smuggle goods across the border to China) went up to 57, a 100% increase compare to the Concern Group’s last research. The research finding clearly shows that smuggling activities in Sheung Shui district continues to increase, the complete opposite of the comment “(smuggling activities have) reduced significantly” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made on 8th September. Sheung Shui is now a heaven to smugglers.
The number of Individual Visit Scheme related shops in Shek Wu Hui between 2013/06 and 2015/06.
Since the “multi-entry system” for Shenzhen citizens was implemented in August 2012, smuggling activities in Sheung Shui skyrocketed, interrupting the livelihood of the local residents in the district. Although there is a sizeable number of Hong Kong residents participating in this illegal trade, the majority of individuals who take part in smuggling activities are Chinese Individual Visit Scheme “tourists” – based on our regular field research the proportion is approximately 4 Hong Kong residents to 6 Chinese “tourists”. The Concern Group conducted another research in Sheung Shui to reveal the severity of smuggling activities in the area. This research focuses on the number of shops tailored to the smugglers who come to Hong Kong via the Independent Visit Scheme.
The research focuses on Shek Wu Hui only, which covers the community between San Fung Avenue, Jockey Club Road and Lung Sum Avenue, excluding Landmark North. The shops included in this research are the ones that benefited significantly from the influx of Independent Visit Scheme visitors. The data is collected by members of the Concern Group who walked through each street and checked each corner of the area. The members recorded all the information of these shops, including their exact location, by hand.
||Traditional Chinese Medicine & Dried Seafood Shop
||Snacks, Processed Food Store
||Processed Food Wholesaler
||Baby Products Store
The research shows that the number of smugglers shops increase drastically by 119% to 57 shops in just one year. Number of pharmacies saw a 14% increase and reached 49. This could mean that smuggling activities surpassed the purchases of daily necessities in Hong Kong.
The new smugglers shops are mostly located in San Kung Street near Jubilee Plaza, Royal Jubilee, which are operated by people who only speak Mandarin. Goods are always piled up outside of these shops taking up public space and smugglers are always squatting outside the shops packing goods into their luggage. Local residents who walk pass these shops always receive “unfriendly” treatments.
Another key finding is the increase number of money changers. In 2013, there were 23 money changers in the area, but now there are 33 – 10 stores more in just three years. To put the situation in context, there are around 20 banks in Sheung Shui, the number of money changers is almost 50% more than that of banks in the area. Some of these money changers also run a smuggling operation on the side.
Shop rental in Hong Kong went up substantially towards the end of 2014, the number of smugglers shops coincide the trend. This shows that the public’s suspicious of smuggling activities pushing up rental prices has some ground. In recent years, besides the subdivided shops (halving big shops) and the limited number of shops inside Spot (a shopping mall in Lung Sum Avenue), there is no new shop spaces available for rental. This means smugglers shops forced people who would like to set up small businesses to drop their plan, and forced people who cannot afford skyrocketing rents in the area out of business. This also means that there are less and less retailers in the area that service the local residences.
Border Shopping Mall 邊境購物城
Besides Sheung Shui, San Tin near Lok Ma Chau Station has been turned into a smugglers playground, and the situation there is worse than that in Sheung Shui. Some parking lots have to use water cannon to disperse smugglers who gather to pack their goods into cases. Some taxi drivers also choose to pick up smugglers only to make more money by not charging according to meter and disregard safety by stuffing extra luggage in the boot. Some landlords who want to take advantage of smuggling activities even propose to build border shopping malls for smugglers in San Tin, Fu Tei Au, Nam Sang Wai and some other locations, which will minimise the cost of the organised smuggling trade. Concern Group strongly opposes the idea of building border shopping malls for several reasons: (a) allocating the precious land in Hong Kong to facilitate organised smuggling activities is not only a misuse of land resources, it also encourages this illegal trade; (b) using Individual Visit Scheme to smuggle does not help Hong Kong’s skills-based economy; (c) border shopping malls will not ease the existing problem as smugglers shops and pharmacies tailored for smugglers will not move to these shopping malls, instead these shopping malls will spread the serious problems caused by smugglers into other parts of Hong Kong; (d) these malls are tailored to Chinese smugglers, by drawing even more Chinese into Hong Kong soil, the border between Hong Kong and China will become even more blurry.
除了上水，落馬洲站附近的新田亦成為了走私者樂園，情況比上水更為嚴重！有停車場更需要設水炮驅趕走私者。有的士司機更為了瓜分走私成果而選擇性接載走私者、不按咪錶收費、及違例載貨。有地主見走私活有利可圖，便紛紛爭取在新田、虎地坳、南生圍等邊境地區興建邊境購物走私城，從而壓低整體走私業的擴張成本。本組織極力反對邊境走私購物城，原因有很多，例如：1. 劃分本港寶貴土地給走私集團從事跨境走私活動不但嚴重浪費土地資源更助長歪風。2. 自由行跨境走私活動是低技術工作，不能幫助香港走向知識型經濟。3. 沒有分流作用，現存的走私專門店及藥房不會自願或被迫遷徙到邊境購物地。4. 有恥笑中國沒法重建產品品質及口碑和慫恿中國人使用洋貨之嫌。5. 服務對象以中國人為主，有模糊香港邊界之嫌。
Even after the number of anti-smugglers protests organised by the public which are dubbed as “Liberation Campaign” or “Restoration Campaign”, the anti-smuggling operations by the Customs Department (triggered directly by these protests), and the tightened visa scheme which limits Shenzhen citizens to enter Hong Kong once a week, smuggling activities continue to flourish. Whether these protests and official actions have successfully reduced the expansion of smuggling activities in Hong Kong, Concern Group has yet to sufficient data to come up with a conclusion. However, as the number of smugglers shops continues to grow, the impact caused by smuggling activities to the local residents’ livelihood and living environment continues to escalate. If the Hong Kong SAR Government insists on ignoring the problem, public discontent will surely grow and more civil actions will take place.
“Cancel multiple-entry permit and reduce Chinese Independent Visit Scheme travellers” was the recommendation Concern Group provided in the previous research. This time, our recommends are as follow:
- Cancel “once-a-week” travel permit
- Customs Department to carry out anti-smuggling operations more frequently
- The government to increase law enforcement and impose heavier fines on people who obstruct streets and litter
- Impose travel restriction on those who evade fines of littering and obstructing streets until their fines are paid, this means Chinese travellers who do not pay their fines are ban from entering Hong Kong, Hong Kong citizens are banned from leaving Hong Kong and holders of other passports and visas are not allowed to leave or enter Hong Kong until fines are paid.
- Governments in Hong Kong and China should actively promote smuggling is illegal (smugglers are tax evaders as most products they smuggle from Hong Kong to China are taxed in China’s soil)
- Hong Kong SAR Government has the responsibility to inform the China Government that the current twisted economy (illegal smuggling activities) is directly caused by the poor quality products manufactured in China, demanding China to improve food and product safety
- Hong Kong SAR Government has the responsibility to inform the China Government the seriously corrupted Custom Department in China escalate the cross border smuggling activities
- Citizens of Hong Kong should record (given that it is safe) and report to the police or contact 1823 should they witness individuals participating smuggling activities
|North District Parallel Imports Concern Group
13th September 2015
North District Parallel Imports Concern Group is responsible for collecting data and writing the report in Chinese. North District Random is responsible for posting the complete report. 北區水貨客關注組負責收集數據及撰寫中文報告。北區隨寫則負責發表全份報告。