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Shenzhen Ups Anti-smuggling Fight
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New regulations to strengthen anti-smuggling efforts in the southern city's local government come into force next month.

They are the first local-based regulations to tackle smuggling in the country.

It fills a legislative gap to provide more practical instructions for the cooperation between government departments and customs officers.

"Tackling smuggling is an arduous task that demands attention and participation from the whole society. That's the legislative spirit of the regulations," Tan Guoxiang, director of Shenzhen's anti-smuggling task force, told a press briefing yesterday.

The team began drafting the anti-smuggling regulations in Shenzhen in 2001.

After more than 10 revisions, it was finally approved by the local legislative body on January 20.

As stipulated by the new regulations, the industrial and commercial administration will have the right for the first time to confiscate and fine the organizers of small-volume smuggling.

Legislators hope it will help to tackle the rising number of residents who are being used to carry goods into the city from bordering Hong Kong, Zou Zhiwu, director-general of Shenzhen Customs, explained to reporters.

Of the 200,000 people crossing through Luohu checkpoint every day, several thousands of them may be involved in low-level smuggling, Zou estimated.

These zero-tariff products, usually daily necessities, medicine and healthcare products, and skincare products, are sold in local markets to make handsome profits for the organizers, he said, but caused a big loss to the city's tax revenue.

Zou said the serious problem could be attributed to the current absence of legal punishments on the organizers.

"The customs officials can search the suspected carriers if the products they bring with them are far more than the reasonable level for personal use. The goods will be returned or confiscated and the carriers will be fined," Zou said.

However, given the enormous amount of carriers, he said they mainly planned to target the organizers, to solve the root of the problem.

With the new regulations, the industrial and commercial administration can confiscate products and issue fines of up to three times the amount of the goods that have been brought in. The ringleaders will be handed over to the judicial body.

As part of the new regulations, relevant departments will regularly meet to analyze the smuggling situation and trends, putting forward new anti-smuggling measures and planning specific operations.

The city in south China's Guangdong Province faces more smuggling activities than any other area in the country because of its geographical location.

It is estimated that Shenzhen accounted for one-fourth of the national total last year of smuggling cases and the value of products involved.

Mu Xinsheng, commissioner with the General Administration of Customs, revealed last month that 9,627 cases were reported in the country in 2005, with 9.85 billion yuan (US$1.18 billion) worth of goods involved.

(China Daily February 24, 2006)

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