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Stringent inter-departmental efforts combat unlawful actions related to parallel trading

     Various departments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government reported on the follow-up actions to combat unlawful actions related to parallel trading at an inter-departmental meeting today (April 14).

     Chairing the meeting, the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, said that the Central Government has since yesterday (April 13) put in place the new "one trip per week" Individual Visit Endorsements to replace the "multiple-entry" Individual Visit Endorsements for permanent residents of Shenzhen. The new arrangement aims to effectively tackle the activities of Mainland parallel traders who come to Hong Kong multiple times within one week. The meeting specifically discussed combating unlawful actions related to organised parallel trading in Hong Kong at source.

     Mrs Lam asked the departments to continue their efforts in law enforcement so as to minimise the nuisance caused to the daily lives of local residents.

Combating parallel trading at source

     The Lands Department (LandsD) has been stepping up enforcement actions against unauthorised structures erected on private agricultural land. For unauthorised structures where the breach is not purged despite encumbrance imposed in the relevant land ownership history at the Land Registry, LandsD will proceed with re-entry of the land in accordance with the case priority. For cases involving parallel trading activities, the special operation teams will accord priority in taking enforcement actions. The special operation teams have inspected 26 lots in San Tin and issued warnings to owners of nine lots where breaches of the relevant leases were identified and unauthorised squatters on the lots were found to be involved in parallel trading activities. Unauthorised structures on two lots were demolished before the deadlines. If owners of the remaining seven lots fail to rectify the breaches before the deadlines, LandsD will step up enforcement action, and will consider re-entry of the premises.

     Some industrial units in the New Territories are used for retail purposes, which may have breached the relevant leases. To enhance enforcement actions against cases of lease breaches involving parallel trading activities,the special operation teams set up by LandsD earlier have conducted inspections at more than 2 400 targeted industrial units in the three districts of Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and North Districts in the New Territories since early February. Intensive inspections have been carried out and grace periods have been shortened to enhance enforcement actions. As at mid-April, warnings had been issued to 41 units suspected of breaching leases. As some of the breaches were not rectified before the deadlines, LandsD re-entered two units in accordance with the lease and the Government Rights (Re-entry and Vesting Remedies) Ordinance, under which interests in land and connected rights and obligations become vested in The Financial Secretary Incorporated.

     The Fire Services Department (FSD) has stepped up inspection of buildings which are involved in parallel trading activities in Sheung Shui, Fanling, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun. As at mid-April, the FSD had conducted 826 inspections of buildings in the aforementioned districts, issued 24 fire hazard abatement notices and initiated prosecution against six cases.

     During the relevant operations by various departments, if a person concerned is suspected to be involved in tax evasion or operating a business without a valid business registration certificate, the information will be passed to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). The IRD will give priority to processing of and following up on these cases.

     In response to the need to crack down on parallel trading, the Police correspondingly stepped up enforcement actions against pedestrian walkway obstruction and road obstruction, including acts of loading or unloading goods in restricted zones. In the first quarter of this year, the Police issued more than 4 100 fixed penalty notices in New Territories North, which was six times more than the 600 issued last year.

Enforcement at boundary control points

     To crack down on the supply chain of parallel goods, the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have strengthened intelligence exchange and joint enforcement operations.

     After collecting and analysing information on the parallel trading network, the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) has pinpointed suspected parallel goods storage and packing establishments, and passed intelligence to the Immigration Department (ImmD) and the Police to conduct enforcement actions.

     The C&ED has also been exchanging intelligence and planning dedicated operations with the Shenzhen authorities. In the first quarter of this year, the two sides cracked down on 70 smuggling cases involving parallel traders, seizing goods with a total value of about $1.22 million. As Hong Kong residents carrying parallel goods to the Mainland may be breaching the law there, the C&ED will actively consider practicable measures to assist the Shenzhen authorities to combat illegal activities.

     The C&ED has also detected 1 364 cases of attempting to export unlicensed powdered formula, involving 11 453 kilograms of powdered formula. Among those arrested, around 45 per cent are Hong Kong residents, and around 55 per cent are Mainland residents.

     In the first quarter of this year, ImmD and the Police mounted 33 joint enforcement operations, and arrested 304 Mainland residents who were suspected of contravening conditions of stay by being involved in parallel trading activities.

     In addition, ImmD has strengthened the interception of Mainland visitors suspected of being involved in parallel trading activities. If the purposes of their visits are in doubt, ImmD will consider refusing their entry and repatriating them immediately. In these three months, ImmD has refused over 6 300 entries due to suspected involvement in parallel trading activities, which is more than two times the figure last year.

Black spots for parallel trading and street management

     In the first quarter of this year, the Police stepped up enforcement actions against issues including obstruction and nuisance in public places caused by parallel traders and stores, and issued a total of 55 summonses. The relevant departments will continue to take strict enforcement action at black spots of parallel trading activities to minimise the nuisance caused to residents in public places.

     In order to maintain environmental hygiene and tidiness in North District, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will continue to enhance street cleaning services and enforcement actions at parallel trading black spots in the district, including stepping up removal of discarded items, issuing Fixed Penalty Notices to persons who have committed public cleanliness offences and taking part in inter-departmental enforcement actions against shops which violate the laws, so as to combat obstruction problems caused by parallel trading activities. In the first quarter of this year, the FEHD issued 633 notices under the Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness Offences) Ordinance at the relevant black spots, which is more than last year's total number.

     The Government spokesman reiterated that various government departments will continue to take strict actions to combat unlawful actions related to parallel trading. Local residents are reminded not to risk breaking the law by taking parallel trading items across the boundary, which may violate laws in the Mainland.

     Representatives attending the inter-departmental meeting came from the Security Bureau, the Development Bureau, the Food and Health Bureau, the Transport and Housing Bureau, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, the C&ED, the FSD, the FEHD, the Hong Kong Police Force, the ImmD, LandsD, the Home Affairs Department, the Tourism Commission, the IRD, the Transport Department and the Information Services Department.

Ends/Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Issued at HKT 21:51


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