Archives For Hong Kong

Abalone Shells

Oxpeckers’ environmental investigative journalist, Crystal Chow,  digs up the dirt on the illicit abalone trade.

Abalone tops the list of the most exquisite seafood in Chinese cuisine, and fresh South African abalone are always the first choice for feasts in Cantonese restaurants, where one fresh abalone alone can cost up to HK$2,000 (about R3,000). In recent years, the overfishing and smuggling of wild abalone has pushed this endemic species of the South African coast towards extinction.

“The South African wild abalone are heavier, and they are better than the farmed Japanese and Australian ones in terms of fresh flavour and texture,” said Chit-yu Lau, general manager of Ah Yat Abalones restaurant in Hong Kong. “Our fresh South African abalone are all imported through legitimate channels. The smuggled ones are usually dried, and are rare in Hong Kong.”

Nonetheless, the illicit abalone trade has been gathering significant attention from conservationists combating wildlife trafficking, who believe the profitable contraband market of abalone is linked to the black market of ivory and rhino horns – both of which are driven by high demand from the Chinese market. To read the full story Click here!

Source: oxpeckers.org, author – Chow. C, June 9, 2017.

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NanshaChina is planning to build a second Hong Kong city in Nansha, a district in southern China’s Guangdong province.

Preliminary plans indicate a city of around 100 square kilometres will be built to help alleviate the development problems currently experienced by Hong Kong due to land shortages, protests and environmental concerns. Hong Kong has an area of about 1,100 square kilometres and currently houses over seven million people.

The new city is expected to be developed into an international shipping hub. Its commercial importance will be boosted by the Guangdong free trade zone which was approved late last year. This zone will cover around 116 square kilometres.

China’s Xinhua news agency said the zone will deepen cooperation between Hong Kong and Macau which lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, across from Hong Kong. Nansha faces the sea and is 38 nautical miles from Hong Kong and 41 nautical miles from Macau. In December 2013, Nansha Port hit the record of 10 million teu since it was open in 2004.

Local media reports that the new city could be completed by 2020. It is expected to have a GDP of $64 billion. Source: Maritime Executive

Detector Dog Rajax demonstrates his cash-sniffing abilities during training at a NZ Customs facility

Detector Dog Rajax demonstrates his cash-sniffing abilities during training at a NZ Customs facility

Customs Minister Nicky Wagner today welcomed a new partnership between New Zealand, Hong Kong and Chinese Customs to develop cash detector dog capabilities in the region.

Officials from Hong Kong Customs and the General Administration of China Customs’ Anti-Smuggling Bureau have been in Auckland to learn how drug dogs are trained to detect cash, so they can progress similar programmes in their own Customs administrations.

“It’s fantastic we’re able to assist Hong Kong and China to build this special capability, as detecting undeclared or hidden cash is an increasing priority for many Customs authorities as evidence shows following the money trail can lead to cracking serious organised crime such as drug smuggling.

“Having Hong Kong and China Customs detector dogs sniff both drugs and cash will disrupt drug smuggling and money laundering by transnational syndicates, with flow-on benefits for us in New Zealand,” Ms Wagner says

New Zealand shares formal agreements and a close customs-customs operational relationships with both Hong Kong and China, with the agencies working together to target the illicit drug trade through cross-border efforts.

Officials spent a week getting an overview from Customs’ Source: NZ Government (contributed by M Reddy)

The following article (forgive the length), comes courtesy of Think Africa Press. It details a fascinating story about one of Hong Kong’s most notorious buildings – “Chungking Mansions”. The down-market building situated on some of the world’s most expensive real estate is home to some of the best South Asian restaurants, several $20-a-night guesthouses, and a mall that at one point, sold a fifth of all the cell phones that ended up in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nathan Road is Hong Kong’s busiest shopping street. It is lined with skyscrapers and decorated with neon signs of every size, colour and shape. Most of the logos are familiar: McDonald’s, KFC, Samsung, Rolex, Carlsberg, 7-Eleven, Standard Chartered. This is Asia’s Times Square, a luminous roll call of the world’s biggest companies and products, a shrine to consumer culture in the modern world. Workers, tourists and others cram the neon shadows of the sidewalks, clutching engorged wallets and sleek plastic bags. The luxury goods in the shop fronts of polished glass and mood lighting beckon their business. Lots of money changes hands. Many shiny new items are purchased. This is the apotheosis of globalisation as we know it best: big companies, handsome profits, fancy boardrooms, high-flying executives, top quality goods. But this is not the globalisation I have come to Nathan Road to see. I know I am getting closer to my destination when an Asian gentleman outside a Rolex store approaches. “Want nice watch? Mister, nice Rolex for you? I give you best price.” Despite admiring his brazen attempts to shift fakes not a metre outside a shop displaying the genuine articles, I shrug him off and turn into a narrow passage that takes me to the heart of a building called – in Hong Kong’s typically optimistic style – Chungking Mansions. This three-towered utilitarian block is one of Hong Kong’s most notorious buildings. Unlikely as it may seem, it is one of the major drivers of Africa’s technological revolution. The building’s history is infamous. Erected in 1961 to fulfil Hong Kong’s insatiable need for low-cost housing, it soon turned into one of the most legendary stops on Asia’s hippy backpacker trail, thanks to the proliferation of tiny, cheap guesthouses on its upper floors, many of which are still operating. These cheap tourists enticed merchants of tacky goods, whose stalls swamped the building’s lower floors. In turn, this activity attracted illegal immigrants, drug dealers and prostitutes, turning Chungking into Hong Kong’s seediest underbelly; a place that locals avoided completely and even police feared to tread. In recent years, the place has cleaned up its act somewhat, but still offers the city’s cheapest accommodation. It is home to a large South Asian community (primarily Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) and plenty of cheap tat: luggage, souvenirs, fake football shirts, etc. But in the last decade or so, shopkeepers have introduced a new product which has kept Chungking Mansions ticking: the mobile phone. Continue Reading…

Invisible textile patternWondering whether the $50 Armani suit you bought in that alley in Hong Kong is the genuine article? Soon, there may be a definitive way of knowing. A new system has been developed, in which designer-specific invisible patterns can be woven into fabric. Professor Christian Müller, at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology, started by applying a special dye to a polyethylene thread. The dye absorbs visible light, but can be seen using a polarizing filter. The idea is that each designer would have their own unique pattern that would be woven into their garments, that people such as customs officials could see using simple equipment.

That’s all very well and good, but what would stop counterfeiters from just reading and then copying those patterns? A number of different types of the dye can be used, and they can be bonded not only to polyethylene, but also to a variety of other synthetic and natural fibres. Depending on the specific combination of dye and fibre types, the optical spectrum of the pattern is different. Unless the counterfeiters knew the secret combination used, they wouldn’t be able to copy the exact look of an existing pattern – it’s not unlike the technology presently used on some banknotes. According to Müller, it would be relatively easy and inexpensive for clothing companies to manufacture their own custom dyed threads for use in the system. Source and picture: gizmag.com

2012 World's Container Ports With Most Potential (Mercator)

2012 World’s Container Ports With Most Potential (Mercator)

According to the Shanghai International Shipping Institute’s (SISI) ‘Global Port Development Report 2012’, rapid growth in throughput has been pushing Chinese ports up the global ranking in terms of development potential.

The report also revealed that throughput in China’s ports was stable, with a growth rate of around 3% to 10%, affected by the worsening economic environment, growth in international shipping and a decrease in trade volume.

But, with global economic, trade and shipping centres moving eastward, some small and medium sized ports have recorded double digit growth (over 20% in some cases). As a result, Chinese ports, including Hong Kong, have taken up five positions among SISI’s Top 10 2012 World’s Most Potential Container Ports, nine positions among the Top 20 global container ports and 13 positions among the Top 20 global ports in terms of cargo throughput.

The report says that European ports are likely to see a return in stability, with a limited growth of less than 3%, while American and African ports may see some growth in throughput following the slow recovery of international trade volume and stronger cargo handling capacity.

Border Madness!

October 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

Mainland Chinese visitors line up and wait for check in outside Hong Kong’s Sheung Shui train station with packages of diapers to be parallel imported into Shenzhen for resale.

While communist China bears the brunt of criticism for its exportation of low cost and in many cases inferior products to the rest of the world, the following article suggests one should spare a thought for the Chinese citizens themselves given what they have to put up with from the authorities between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

The recent hard crackdown on smugglers and couriers across the boundary between Hong Kong and Shenzhen has cut deeply into the business of parallel trading on both sides of the border, and thus far, appears to have reduced the nuisance problem caused to residents of the northern New Territory. However, with the crackdown on-going and the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR) adding further pressure by restricting the dimensions and weight of passenger luggage going across the border, complaints have started buzzing, that the move may have frightened away the passenger couriers, but not the syndicates coordinating them behind the scenes.

Effective 9 October 2012, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTR) imposed a maximum weight limitation of 32 kilograms or 130 centimetres in length for passenger luggage on the East Rail Line, under a three-month trial scheme. Could you just imagine this at an African border crossing? Passengers are allowed only one piece of baggage. All their small parcels and suitcases are required to be bundled up into a single “package,” all part of the bid to curb the passenger-couriers whose clamouring and crowding had become a serious issue for neighbours of MTR in New Territories.

The restrictions were seen as MTR’s contribution to the collaborative effort that involved governments on both sides of the border, to cut down on so-called parallel traders and smugglers. MTR’s new rule has, in general, earned praise from residents of northern New Territory because the nuisance problem caused by the traders/smugglers has been alleviated. However, for residents of Shenzhen, who travel back and forth every day, or residents of `other parts of the mainland who come to Hong Kong for shopping, the size and weight limitations seem be “unnecessary” and “troublesome”.

“I was often asked to buy things in Hong Kong on my way home: cooking oil, rice, baby formula, tissues, etc. I really don’t have time to care about how heavy they are or how long they are,” said Go, a resident of Shenzhen. He Hua, also a Shenzhen resident living in Luohu district who comes to Hong Kong to go shopping two to three times a month, also doesn’t like the new limitation. “I came to Hong Kong regularly to buy things for myself and my family. I paid my money and followed regulations of the Customs, why should I worry about my weight and length? If the goods are all legal, why can’t I take them on the train at one time?” said Hua, who had carried six cans of baby formula with her, which she claimed were for her elder sister’s baby.

Recently, there has been a strengthened effort to combat parallel trade, with a collaborative effort between the Customs and Excise Department of the SAR and the Shenzhen Anti-Smuggling Bureau. The action uncovered 120 cases of parallel trading and made 123 arrests, with the unpaid taxation of the confiscated goods amounting to one million yuan. On the other side of the border, business associated with cross boundary goods was also affected. In North Huaqiang district in Shenzhen, which had been long recognized as the “centre of parallel trading” of “grey goods” from Hong Kong, business has shrunken since the crackdown.

A shop owner in North Huangqian area told China Daily that he had expected to make a huge profit by selling iPhone 5, the latest release by Apple Corporation. It never happened, because his Hong Kong supplier informed him that it was too difficult and that it was risky to get the iPhone 5 across the border. And the seller couldn’t get the supply he had counted on.

“The whole business chain of parallel trading depends on the ‘suppliers’ to smuggle goods from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, especially electronic goods. Now the suppliers have trouble getting through the border, (so) we have trouble getting the goods,” said the anonymous shop owner. Because of serious supply shortage, the price of “grey goods” has soared significantly on the mainland side of the border. The best example was iPhone, which sold originally at HK$5,688 (US$733.8) at the Apple Store in Hong Kong, but was priced at 8,000 yuan (US$1276.5) at the anonymous shop owner’s store. Insiders of the courier industry also told China Daily that the price for smuggling goods across the border with “ant house-moving” tactics had increased from 22 yuan per kilogram to a record high of 50 yuan per kilogram.

The business of stores that sell Hong Kong goods in Shenzhen has picked up since the crackdown, as people who live along the border in Shenzhen choose to buy daily-use goods in local stores – like cooking oil, rice and baby formula, instead of going to Hong Kong by themselves. “We have adequate Hong Kong goods, don’t worry; they are all fresh and delivered to us fresh every day,” said the owner of a store selling Hong Kong goods in Shatoujiao, or Sha Tau Kok in Cantonese, in eastern Shenzhen. The store owner refused to answer how he managed to get “adequate supply” from Hong Kong every day.

The crackdown on smugglers, especially the MTR weight limitation, had stopped individual couriers; however, it didn’t shut down the syndicates coordinating behind the scenes. What’s more, there are some 157 online stores that sold Hong Kong goods on Taobao, the biggest online shopping market in the mainland. The record on the website showed that one of the big shops had sold out 1,357 pieces of Hong Kong goods in the past week, 90 percent of which are daily use goods and food. Source: The China Daily

An emperor, faced with the task of selecting a successor, devises a test: he lays out an array of valuable artifacts — items of gold, jade and ivory — and asks each of his sons to choose one treasure. One prince ponders his options for a while, before selecting an ivory scepter. The emperor is pleased. Ivory is valuable, he says, and also imbued with wisdom. The son with the scepter will rule. This, of course, is merely a fable. But the tale of the emperor and his son hints at ivory’s enduring lure in China. For millennia, it has been seen as a symbol of wealth, a source of wisdom and a sign of nobility. This helps explain why more than 20 years after an international ban on the trade of elephant ivory, the business is booming. “With more disposable income in mainland China, many people are flaunting their wealth, and ivory is seen as a luxury product that confers status,” says Tom Milliken of the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network. “We are seeing the worst poaching of elephants and the worst illegal trade in ivory over the last 23 years.”

Authorities in Hong Kong have intercepted one of the largest shipments of illegal ivory in history – 1,209 elephant tusks and ivory ornaments weighing more than 8,400 pounds. The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department announced the seizure on Saturday of 3,813 kilograms of ivory hidden inside two containers shipped from Tanzania and Kenya. One container was labeled as carrying plastic scrap, the other was marked as dried beans.

It was the largest-ever seizure of contraband ivory in Hong Kong. Even within the context of soaring wildlife poaching, the numbers are staggering: the equivalent of more than 600 dead elephants. So lucrative is the ivory trade now that well-armed mafias have gotten in on the act. Hong Kong officials estimated the value of the seizure at 26.7 million Hong Kong dollars, or just under $3.5 million.

The customs agency, which said in a statement that it had “smashed” the ivory smuggling case, reported no arrests. But the South China Morning Post reported that seven people in China were arrested in connection with the seizure. Demand from an increasingly affluent Asia, improved international transport and trade links, and weak enforcement and feeble penalties (in many countries) have caused wildlife poaching to jump over the past decade or two.

More than 300 elephants were killed in Cameroon alone early this year. A video from the World Wildlife Fund shows some of that grim slaughter. In this article, published in September, Jeffrey Gettleman reported that ivory — like blood diamonds from Sierra Leone or plundered minerals from Congo — is now a “conflict resource,” used to help finance conflicts across the African continent.

“Some of Africa’s most notorious armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Shabab and Darfur’s janjaweed,” he wrote, “are hunting down elephants and using the tusks to buy weapons and sustain their mayhem.” Members of some of the African armies backed by the U.S. government, Jeffrey reported, also have been implicated in poaching elephants and dealing in ivory. Source: New York Times

Related Articles

The Organization is celebrating its 60th anniversary, an occasion which gives the global Customs community the chance to reflect on where the WCO began, where it is now, and where it hopes to go in the future. This issue highlights some of the WCO’s milestones past and present, we take a brief look at the WCO’s historical beginnings and subsequent development, follow one man’s forty year Customs journey, look at the history of containerization: the box that changed the world, and even step back to 1969 when the Apollo 11 touched down on the surface of the moon. In this dossier, not only does the WCO look back with pride, but also looks forward with optimism, conscious of the fact that the WCO has served the global Customs community with dedication for sixty years, and will continue doing so to ensure that Customs administrations remain well-positioned to deliver effective and efficient services around the world. Also in this issue –

  • Doorless containers now a reality,
  • US/EU mutual recognition programme,
  • New guidelines included in WCO Revenue Package,
  • Globally Networked Customs,
  • GS1 and the WCO,
  • Algeria Customs and performance management,
  • Georgia’s success in rooting out corruption,
  • Hong Kong moves forward with its e-Lock plans.

Source: http://www.wcoomd.org

East Asian economies have recorded marked improvements in their ability to enable trade, while traditional frontrunners Singapore and Hong Kong retain a clear lead at the top of the global rankings, according to the Global Enabling Trade Report 2012, released today by the World Economic Forum.

The report, which is published every two years, also confirms strong showings for Europe’s major economies, with Finland and the United Kingdom both advancing six places to 6th and 11th, respectively, and Germany and France remaining stable at 13th and 20. Other large economies fare less well: the US continues its decline to 23rd, as does China (56th) and India (100th). Among emerging economies, Turkey (62nd) and Mexico (65th) remain stable while Chile (14th), Saudi Arabia (27th) and South Africa (63rd) climb in the ranking. ASEAN members Thailand (57th), Indonesia (58th) and the Philippines (72nd) also improve. Perhaps the proponents of OSBPs and a BMA in South Africa have not read this or have deeper insight into the matter.

As well as ranking nations’ trade openness, the report finds that traditional notions of trade are increasingly outdated as global value chains require new measurements, policies and cooperation. The report also finds that security, quality and trade can be mutually reinforcing through supply chain integrity efforts, but a knowledge gap in identifying buyers remains an important barrier. The biennial report, covering 132 economies worldwide, measures the abilities of economies to enable trade and highlights areas where improvements are most needed. A widely used reference, it helps countries integrate global value chains and companies with their investment decisions.

At the core of the report is the Enabling Trade Index, which measures institutions, policies and services facilitating the free flow of goods over borders and to destination. It breaks the enablers into four issue areas: market access, border administration, transport and communications infrastructure, and business environment. The Index uses a combination of data from publicly available sources, as well as the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum with its network of partner research institutes and business organizations in the countries included in the report. The 2012 results demonstrate that the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement has facilitated trade since its entry into force in 2010. This year, the report also directly captures the most important obstacles to exporting and importing in each country, and notes the strong links between import and export success. Source: AllAfrica.com / WEF

The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) reports that RFID-based container locks can effectively improve the security, convenience and visibility of the customs process for cargo entering the airport. In November 2011, C&ED began testing three types of electronic locks (e-locks) in order to speed up the process of performing customs checks on containers filled with cargo. The solution, known as the Intermodal Transhipment Facilitation Scheme (ITFS), was implemented as a way to streamline the clearance of cargo passing through customs at Hong Kong International Airport for cargo destined for areas both domestic and outside of Hong Kong. The installation and consulting services were provided by the Hong Kong R&D Center for Logistics and Supply Chain Management Enabling Technologies (LSCM), according to Frank Tong, LSCM’s director of research and technology development.

An electronic lock with an active RFID tag is being used to secure freight passing through
customs and Hong Kong International Airport, ensuring that the cargo remains tamper-free,
while also expediting the clearance process.

The Hong Kong C&ED estimates that the system reduces the amount of time required for clearing each container through customs, from two to three hours down to five minutes, since customs officials can now be assured that the containers have not been opened between their inspection at the border control point and their arrival at the airport. What’s more, the agency can now collect a digital record of where each container has been, along with when it was inspected.

Cargo is loaded into freight containers or directly onto trucks—such as those operated by United Parcel Service (UPS)—in Mainland China, and is then transported to a customs control point located at the border with Hong Kong, where C&ED officials inspect the cargo and clear it for entry into Hong Kong. Following that clearance, the shipment continues on to Hong Kong International Airport’s cargo terminal, where the goods are unloaded from the container or vehicle, and are placed into an air cargo container. Once this has occurred, the cargo is moved through another customs control point at the airport, where C&ED again inspects and approves or rejects its passage.

To speed up this process, the R&D Center implemented the use of an e-lock for the customs agency, consisting of a physical lock activated by a built-in active RFID tag, designed to receive a transmission from an RFID reader that allows the lock to be opened or closed. Three types of e-locks are currently being used, provided by three different vendors: Long Sun Logistics Development Ltd, CIMC Intelligent Technology Co. and CelluWare Research Laboratory. Each of the three products employs a different frequency—433 MHz, 315 MHz and 2.4 GHz—but all comply with the ISO 17712 standard for mechanical seals designed for freight containers.

LSCM has installed fixed RFID readers (provided by the three e-lock vendors) at two border control points—Lok Ma Chau and Shenzhen Bay—as well as at Hong Kong International Airport. When a shipment first arrives at either border control point, C&ED’s staff attaches an e-lock, reads the ID number encoded on its built-in RFID tag via a handheld reader, and links that ID with the vehicle registration number of the truck transporting the container. The transporting company must pre-register each vehicle with the Hong Kong C&ED prior to its arrival; the truck’s ID number is listed in the agency’s database, and the customs official can confirm that the vehicle is, in fact, the one expected.

That data, along with the specific cargo being transported, is then stored on the Hong Kong C&ED’s integrated tracking software platform, developed by LSCM, which collects and processes the data and then displays it for customs officials when necessary. The system stores the e-lock ID number linked to the vehicle ID, and transmits instructions to the e-lock, along with a password, thereby causing it to lock. The device also requires a physical key, which remains in the driver’s possession. In this way, two actions must be completed before the container or vehicle can be unlocked: The e-lock must be electronically unlocked via a password from a customs official, and the driver must use a key to physically open the padlock.

The shipment is then transported approximately 42 kilometers (26 miles) to the airport. The e-lock comes with a built-in GPS device that tracks the vehicle’s location as it moves. In that way, the e-lock stores a record of where the vehicle has been. When the lock is later read at the airport, the back-end software compares the actual GPS data against the container’s expected route. The system can issue alerts in circumstances in which an e-lock is found to have lost a GPS signal, or, based on GPS data, the truck appears to have deviated from the intended route.

At Hong Kong International Airport, a C&ED official either selects the container for inspection, or simply instructs the system to issue an unlocking command with the matching password; the container is then brought to a site where the cargo is removed and then loaded onto an aircraft, says Steve Wai-chiu Chan, a C&ED special duties officer. If the container is selected for inspection, the e-lock remains locked. In this scenario, a truck driver would be instructed to await a C&ED officer, and would be unable to unlock the container without providing the proper password. The C&ED officer, upon arrival, would then use a handheld device to read the e-lock, instructing it to unlock by providing the necessary password.

LSCM installed a total of 38 readers at the two land border control points, five logistic hubs at the airport and a marine control point known as the Kwai Chung Customhouse, for items arriving by sea (at the Marine Cargo Terminal located at the airport). Altogether, by February of this year, 109 containers had been equipped with the e-lock device. An average of 100,000 consignments pass through the border daily, and the ITFS e-lock system is utilized for about 17 percent of that cargo.

The solution has enabled a faster customs clearance process, as well as providing a digital record of what was unlocked, and thus inspected, and when this occurred. The system also improves security, since only officers who know the proper password can access the container. Ultimately, Chan says, “it enhances the Hong Kong logistic industry’s competency and reinforces Hong Kong’s position as a world-class logistics hub.” Source: RFID Journal and a word of thanks to Andy Brown (Tenacent) for bringing the article to my attention.