Commissioner of Customs and Excise Louise Ho Pui-Shan (middle) outlines the department's work prospects in 2023 at a press conference at the Customs Headquarters Building in Hong Kong on March 1, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)
The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department will further strengthen cooperation with the Chinese mainland this year in various areas, such as logistics, staff training and manpower recruitment, including studying the feasibility of launching a special route from Zhuhai to Hong Kong to transport high-end products and fresh foods.
At an annual work review press conference on Wednesday, Commissioner of Customs and Excise Louise Ho Pui-shan said this route would connect Hong Kong and Zhuhai via Hong Kong International Airport and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
The special route from Zhuhai to Hong Kong would help Hong Kong make full use of its infrastructure and transport network, further promoting the development of cross-border high value-added logistics services, Commissioner of Customs and Excise Louise Ho Pui-shan said. She added that Hong Kong and the mainland will soon conduct research into opening the route and start discussions
The route would help Hong Kong make full use of its infrastructure and transport network, further promoting the development of cross-border high value-added logistics services, Ho said. She added that Hong Kong and the mainland will soon conduct research into opening the route and start discussions.
In addition, in late March, the department will arrange for a group of trainee inspectors undergoing induction training to visit the Shanghai Customs College to study as part of an exchange program.
This exchange program is designed to deepen trainees’ understanding of the operation of mainland customs, national security, and other national affairs, and will become a regular part of inspectors’ induction training in the future, according to Ho.
ALSO READ: More private HK vehicles allowed to use HZMB to Macao
To address its workforce shortage, Hong Kong Customs also plans to visit universities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to recruit talented young mainland people, Ho said.
Regarding international trading, Hong Kong Customs will take advantage of the Belt and Road Initiative to promote the mutual recognition of Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) status with overseas countries.
Commissioner of Customs and Excise Louise Ho Pui-Shan (not in the picture) reviews the work of the Customs and Excise Department in 2022 at the Customs Headquarters Building on March 1, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)
Such recognition enables certified companies exporting goods to other countries to enjoy the local facilitation measures, thus reducing trade costs.
Promoting AEO mutual recognition can help Hong Kong enterprises explore overseas markets, thus enhancing Hong Kong’s position as an international trade center, Ho said.
Last year, Hong Kong Customs handled 7,148 cases, down 8 percent with the previous year. Nearly half the cases involved trade in illicit cigarettes. Over 732 million illicit cigarettes were seized, up 70 percent from 2021 and the highest number ever in a single year, Ho said at the press conference.
In 2022, the department seized 6.9 metric tonnes of drugs, an increase of 70 percent compared with 2021. It also uncovered the largest-ever methamphetamine case in Hong Kong history with a market value estimated at $1.1 billion.
READ MORE: Zhuhai crossings to SARs gain popularity
Two sniffing dogs are seen during the press conference at the Customs Headquarters Building on March 1, 2023. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)
Ho noted that in the post-pandemic era, drug trafficking activities have become increasingly international. There has been a remarkable rise in cases involving sea and air freight and the proceeds gained by smugglers have also been increasing. Ho said this is not only a challenge for Hong Kong, but also for the whole Asia region.
She added that since cross-border travel fully resumed, the department has been actively collecting intelligence on parallel trader syndicates and is closely monitoring their influence on order at checkpoints.
The department recently held a meeting with their mainland counterparts and reached a consensus on prioritizing a crackdown on parallel trader groups, Ho said.