Beijing, April 13: Chi announced on Monday it will restrict visits by residents of the southern city of Shenzen to neighbouring Hong Kong, after protests in the former British colony against a “parallel trade” in basic foodstuffs on the de facto border between the two cities. From now on, visas issued to Shenzen residents will permit travel to Hong Kong only once a week, for a maximum of seven days per visit, said the state-run Xinhua agency, quoting a statement released on Monday by the ministry of public security. Previously, Shenzen residents enjoyed unrestricted multiple entries to Hong Kong, a measure attracting 14.9 million visits last year, according to Hong Kong’s South Chi Morning Post newspaper.
The new measure could reduce the number by up to 30 percent or 4.6 million visits per year, the Post said. The restriction comes after weeks of protest in Hong Kong against a parallel trade that sees hundreds of people enter the more lightly taxed former colony every day to buy cheaper goods and resell them back on mainland Chi. Foreign milk products are among the most sought after items from Hong Kong, after a scandal in 2008 which saw six babies die and more than 300,000 affected by melamine-contamited baby milk powder produced in Chi. Some Chinese citizens cross to Hong Kong solely to buy this product, as they believe the former colony to have better health safeguards. At the border crossing, Efe news agency can verify that billboards warn bringing more milk formula than permitted into Chi will result in fines of up to HK$500,000 ($64,000) and a prison term of up to two years. Traders and residents of the Hong Kong localities popular with visitors from Shenzen believe the new measure will have only a limited impact on a parallel market generating lucrative profits, said the Post. (IANS)