The total number of cross-border students from primary and middle schools as well as universities and kindergartens has exceeded 20,000 during the 2013-2014 academic year, up by 28 percent from 2012-2013, according to the latest statistics from Hong Kong’s Education Bureau.
Special passages have been opened to provide convenient Customs clearance for these students because they usually cross the border during the busy hours. Teachers and nannies who accompany them can go through these passages as well, providing them a unique opportunity to smuggle goods and avoid tariffs.
At the Lo Wu checkpoint, China Customs in the first five months of this year has uncovered a total of 14 cases involving students or companies from Hong Kong and the mainland which were involved in attempts to smuggle more than 120 Apple and Samsung smartphones.
The apprehended students included some from universities and middle schools. Other parallel traders involved were parents and nannies of primary school students. Smuggled goods were mainly smartphones and laptop computers, small in size but of high value.
At Futian checkpoint, Customs officers on April 22 randomly checked two eight-year-old girls’ bags and found their classmates panicked, according to a Shenzhen TV report. So the officers checked more students’ bags. In about half an hour, officers found 53 iphones, 20 ipads, 12 laptop computers, 50 video game discs, cigarettes and cosmetics in eight bags.
“Juveniles have (not) yet matured to tell the difference between right and wrong,” said a Customs officer, adding that, “Their self-control ability is also low, so they are easily manipulated or deceived into smuggling goods as a part-time job for ‘pocket money’. And some of their parents themselves are engaged in illegal activities around the checkpoint.”
Customs officers said they make a record of every juvenile smuggling case under the name of their guardians. And a person who has three smuggling records in one year would be investigated for criminal responsibility.
The Customs authorities also pledged to enhance management and supervision on nanny companies. A record of management and reporting system is on the cards to intensify education on nannies about clearance law and policies. They warned that if nannies are caught for smuggling goods for their bosses, the companies’ privilege of convenient clearance through Customs could be canceled.
On June 30 at Futian checkpoint, Customs officers stopped a mainland housewife trying to cross into Shenzhen. She was found to possess four cans of infant baby milk powder, two cans above the legal limit. The woman, who shouted profanities and resisted arrest, was arrested.