[Appledaily] Christmas is coming. A new year is coming. Red wine, chocolate, and blue-tin cookie become hot items in China again. To reduce the operational cost and risk, smugglers release their shopping lists with buy-back price on WeChat, The consequence is that everyone becomes a smuggler. Train stations, taxi stations, pedestrian pavements, and even recreational parks have been occupied by smugglers. Local residents feel miserable, and worry that the condition will get worse near Lunar New Year. A member of legislative council advocates to cancel multiple-entry permit and to increase the penalty in order to fight against smuggling activities.
It was understood that the police and the immigration department have carried out two large-scale operations in this month to arrest 49 smugglers in places such as Sheung Shui and Lok Ma Chau. However, the problem is still worsen. It was reported that, to deal with the increasing operational cost and risk in managing warehouse for stocking and manpower for couriering, smuggling corps have changed the strategy by using WeChat, an instant messaging software on mobile phones, to release shopping lists with required brands and buy-back prices to smugglers, so that smugglers can purchase the listed items by themselves, bring the items back to China and “sell” back accordingly. The shopping list on WeChat is updated everyday. The update includes price adjustment and whether an item is no longer required.
THE SEARCH & PURCHASE RANGE EXTENDED TO SAN FUNG AVENUE
The reporter finds that the WeChat shopping list has over 80 items, including hot gifts for Christmas and New Year such as cigarette, red wine, chocolate, blue tin cookies, etc, and also long-time favours which are Yakult, skin care, toothpaste, Golden Elephant Rice, toilet paper, and also baby formula and diapers of famous brands. Because many item types are numerous, smugglers greatly extend their activity scope from drugstores in Sheung Shui to supermarkets, Mannings, Watsons, and conventional stores on San Fung Avenue, San Lok Street, and Fu Hing Street.
It was understood that the number of smugglers have greatly increased in recent days since WeChat shopping list has appeared. Queues can be seen outside many supermarkets and chain-stores even in dawn. Afternoon is the peak hour. Wave by wave they come to supermarkets and conventional stores to buy variety of items boxes by boxes, bags by bags. There is always a long queue at the cashier around the clock. These self-employed smugglers will then occupy pedestrian pavements and nearby recreational parks to pack their cargo. The pavement is full of carton boxes, paralyzed the passage. Residents complain that “from 11am to 7pm, Sheung Shui belongs to smugglers!”
PARK BECOMES WAREHOUSE “NO BENCH CAN SIT”
Shek Wu Hui Playground, the only recreational zone in Shek Wu Hui (blogger’s comment: there are many parks in Shek Wu Hui but this is the only playground in the area, besides North District Sports Ground) is one of the hardest hit. An elderly complains that there is no more serene in recent months, and often “not even a bench is available!” The reporter observes that half of the benches in the playground is occupied by smugglers, while the other half is occupied by their stocks. Some smugglers unpack ipads in the dark side of a bench. At 2pm, the playground becomes a warehouse. The public washroom, the entrance passage, and the back alley nearby are full of people and stocks. Parents complain to the reporter that smugglers have surrounded the entrance, making it difficult for their young children to move in and out. The reporter has seen an elderly person with limited mobility has been waiting for a seat for a long while, but still no smugglers give out their seats, even after security guards who show sympathy to the elderly have tried to persuaded smugglers to put their stocks on the ground to release a seat. Some security guards admit that some smugglers show no respect to the elderly and are lack of civic virtue. They are angry about that: “The best way to do is to confiscate all their stocks!”
In every evening, smugglers will gradually migrate to the taxi stop and bus taxi stop on Fu Hing Street, ready to going back to China for their rewards. Many taxi drivers choose their passengers like illegal taxi do. Residents complain that taxi drivers only like to serve smugglers. They gather a car-full of smugglers, then drive them to the border, and such opportunity always exists. Hon Gary Fan Kwok-wai, a member of legislative council, believe that, three things must be done in order to eliminate smugglers from congesting Sheung Shui: Cancel multiple-entry permits and reduce number of IVS visitors; increase the penalty for violating the law; immigrant department can even blacklist convicted smugglers.
Source: Appledaily 2014/12/17