When there was a shortage on powdered formula in Hong Kong in early 2013, the HKSAR government put a limit on the number of formula cans a traveler can take out of Hong Kong to two cans per person per day. Four years have passed, and the HKSAR government has announced in its new Policy Address that it will hold a review of the “powdered formula restriction” (“the restriction”). In order to understand the feelings of Hong Kong residents on the possibility of cancelling the restrictions, especially those who live near the border, we held a comprehensive questionnaire survey both face to face and on the phone in the three areas of North District, Tuen Mun and Yuen Long. We successfully interviewed a total of 719 local residents and started to understand their feelings and opinions on “the restriction”.
On receiving the questionnaire, only 2% of respondents said that the government should cancel “the restriction” altogether, while 8% felt that the restrictions should be loosened. A combined 83% of respondents felt that the restrictions should continue and become a long term policy of the HKSAR. Looking back on the past four years, over 85% of residents feel that the restriction has been an effective or extremely effective policy. However, even so only 12% of respondents replied that neither they nor their relatives or friends have seen people purchasing powdered formula over the limit. 86% of respondents are concerned that if the restriction is lifted the shortages of powdered formula will reappear once more.
What cannot be ignored is that if the powdered formula restriction is lifted, it will have a major effect on the people’s standard of living in districts close to the border. 91% of respondents told us that they were worried that daily life would be affected if the restrictions are lifted. Generally they are worried that many local stalls will become pharmacies and that people buying and selling powdered formula will block the street and cause other disruptions to daily life, while also leading to accidents caused by sheer density.
The concerns shown by local residents are definitely not without reason. Before the enactment of the restrictions on powdered formula, it wasn’t illegal to purchase excessive amounts of powdered formula across the border into the Mainland, and even after the law was in place, from time to time some people still insist on breaking the law. Therefore, we followed up on the statistics and numbers on this issue after the restrictions were put into place. According to the statistics from the Customs and Excise Department, there were 4860 cases of people being caught bringing excessive powdered formula across the border in 2014. 5152 people were charged with breaking the law in total during 2014. In 2016, the numbers have dropped, but there were still around 3900 cases involving 3803 people. In 2017 up to September, there were around 2900 cases involving 1965 people. Looking at the trend, the numbers this year are similar to 2016. This proves that since the promulgation of the restrictions in 2013, we have been unable to completely eradicate people bringing excess amounts of powdered formula over the border.
The survey results showed that residents in the three areas of North District, Sheung Shui and Tuen Mun are almost universally opposed to loosening or lifting the restrictions on powdered formula. We will bring the views of the people to the Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan while giving proposals to the various district councils to oppose any loosening of the restrictions. We urge the government to understand that loosening the powdered formula restrictions may bring severe unintended consequences and to ensure that there is sufficient powdered formula for the needs of locals and also that the daily life of local residents should be the top priority. Therefore, we support the continuation of the restrictions on powdered formula being brought across the border.
Media Inquiries: DAB Legislative and District Councilor Lau Kwok-Fan (9782 7408)