Smuggling US meat products from Hong Kong to mainland China is still a lucrative business. Julie Noce reports.
Here in a border town in Hong Kong a piece of frozen beef from the U.S. lies on the pavement in the 32 degree heat. Meat smugglers quickly transfer frozen short ribs, roasts and other products into their back packs with the intention of bringing them to the mainland where it's banned. Technically, they haven't done anything wrong yet. The meat was legally imported into Hong Kong. But with strict curbs on U.S. beef in China, reselling the products to the mainland is prohibited. Despite a recent crackdown on smuggled products, the meat continues to show up in supermarkets and processing plants around China. Activists say border officials in China are turning a blind eye. (SOUNDBITE) (Cantonese) SPOKESPERSON OF NORTH DISTRICT PARALLEL IMPORTS CONCERN GROUP, RONALD LEUNG, SAYING: "I think it's impossible that they (Chinese customs) don't know. When they cross the border, their bags must go through X-rays, and obviously it will show they are carrying, for example, a lobster. It's impossible to bluff through it. So we believe there is a chance the customs, the mainland Chinese customs, are involved." Local media said authorities seized 100,000 tonnes of smuggled frozen meat last month. Some of it, dubbed 'zombie-meat', was up to 40 years old. Representatives from foreign meat distributors said they were unaware of the smuggling rings, or did not respond to request for comments.