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LCQ13: Combating parallel trading activities

     Following is a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, to a question by the Hon James Tien in the Legislative Council today (December 12):


     Many residents of the North District have relayed to me that although the Government has implemented a number of measures to combat parallel trading activities since September this year, such activities still exist and have caused nuisances to the residents.  It has been reported that recently, there is a trend that parallel trading activities are reviving, with the area outside Sheung Shui MTR Station constantly packed with mainland people waiting to go through the gate and queuing up for the station staff to weigh and measure their luggage, in the process of which serious conflicts occur from time to time.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the information submitted by the Government to this Council in early November this year has indicated that, from September 19 to October 26 this year, the authorities mounted a number of operations to combat on mainland residents contravening conditions of stay in Hong Kong while engaging in parallel trading activities, with 372 mainland residents suspected of contravening conditions of stay arrested, among them, 41 prosecuted (with 30 convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two months), and 331 who were not prosecuted repatriated to the Mainland, of the reasons why most of those people arrested were not prosecuted, and why among those prosecuted, about 30% of them were not convicted;

(b) whether it knows if the mainland residents mentioned in (a) who were not prosecuted but repatriated will be penalised by the mainland authorities; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) as it has been reported by the media that, to circumvent the control measures of prohibiting train passengers from carrying overweight or oversized pieces of luggage, some people have been engaged as ¡§gate runners¡¨ for parallel trade syndicates, bringing goods which comply with the weight and size requirements through the gate and then immediately handing over the goods to parallel traders for reassembling at the train platform and subsequently delivering the goods across the border, whether the authorities are aware of such situation, and what measures they will take to combat such activities;

(d) whether the authorities have assessed the effectiveness of the various existing measures in combating parallel trading activities; whether new measures have been formulated, and how they will strengthen co-operation with the mainland authorities so as to continuously and effectively curb such activities; and

(e) whether the authorities have assessed if the mainland authorities tightening up the policy which allows Shenzhen residents issued with endorsement for visiting Hong Kong to make multiple trips between the Mainland and Hong Kong within the same day (commonly known as "multiple entry permits"), such as by changing the arrangement to "one trip per day", will help combat parallel trading activities; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) and (b) From September 19 to November 30, the Immigration Department (ImmD) and other law enforcement agencies mounted 19 joint enforcement operations named Windsand, and arrested 411 Mainland residents holding exit and entry permits who were suspected of contravening conditions of stay by involving in parallel trading activities.  Among them, 75 Mainland residents were prosecuted, of which 64 were sentenced to imprisonment of four weeks to two months, four pending court trial and seven with charges withdrawn upon legal advice.  The remaining 336 Mainland residents were repatriated to the Mainland.

     The ImmD has, according to established mechanism, notified the Mainland authorities of the convicted Mainland residents for cancellation of their exit endorsements.

     In processing each case, the ImmD will conduct thorough investigation.  Generally, evidence collection will focus on whether the parallel traders take any employment or establish or join in any business.  The ImmD will instigate prosecution where there is sufficient evidence of contravention of conditions of stay.  Given this being criminal prosecution, the ImmD will only consider instigating prosecution when the evidence collected satisfies the high standard of "beyond reasonable doubt".

     For persons who are not prosecuted, when they come to Hong Kong in the future, the ImmD will thoroughly examine their purposes of visit and may refuse their entry if their purposes of visit are in doubt.

(c) The MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL) noticed the so-called "gate runner" activities and has strengthened the patrol and inspection by MTR staff on trains and at platforms of the East Rail Line stations in the North District.  Prosecution will be instigated against passengers whose behaviour or activities cause a nuisance or inconvenience to other passengers, and do not follow the instructions of MTR staff.  In addition to Sheung Shui, Fanling, Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau stations where electronic ground scales have been installed, the MTRCL also checks the luggage weight at the Departure Hall within the paid area of the Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau stations to combat such activities.

(d) The joint operations of the various enforcement departments have seen some initial results with the order in the relevant districts improving.  The enforcement actions will continue.  We will closely monitor the modus operandi of parallel trading activities, adopt the strategy of cracking down at source to take intelligence-based enforcement actions from time to time at different locations, and adjust the strategy as appropriate in light of changing circumstances.  We learnt that the Mainland authorities have also stepped up enforcement actions to combat smuggling activities by parallel traders.  The law enforcement agencies of the two places will continue to maintain close intelligence exchange and conduct joint analysis, and carry out synchronised enforcement actions as necessary to combat organised parallel trading activities.

(e) Regarding the suggestion of limiting Mainland residents from entering Hong Kong more than once in a day, we must carefully consider its feasibility, the impact on normal Mainland visitors, overall immigration policy and Hong Kong's image as the Asia's World City, and the effectiveness in combating parallel trading activities.

     According to preliminary information, Mainland parallel traders enter Hong Kong with various types of endorsements, including both single and multiple endorsements.  The latter includes endorsements for visiting relatives, business and individual visit.  Overall speaking, the travel pattern of Mainland residents arrested in Operation Windsand is generally in line with that of other Mainland visitors.  Some of the arrested Mainland residents only enter Hong Kong once a day.  Therefore, we cannot prove that a visitor is a parallel trader solely on the basis of the number of entries, otherwise visitors with genuine needs to travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland more than once a day may be affected.

     We will continue to adopt an intelligence-based approach and consider a range of factors, including number of entries, to combat parallel trading activities.  In handling every entry application, the ImmD will consider whether the visitor satisfies the normal immigration requirements.  The ImmD will examine the visitor and may consider refusing entry in accordance with the law and established policy if the purpose of visit is in doubt.

Ends/Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:37


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