Starting from March 1, Hong Kong implements its “Revised 2013 Export and Import Regulations.” According to the regulations, People leaving Hong Kong cannot take out more than 1.8 kilograms (around 4 pounds) of infant milk formula. Those who violate this rule will be prosecuted; the harshest sentence being a 500,000 RMB fine and two years imprisonment. In the past two days, 19 mainlanders have already been arrested. Such news makes our hearts sink. The famous blogger Xue Manzi heaved an online sigh of sorrow and noted, “As an old man who has lived for 60 years, I have seen plenty get caught over transporting heroin, but this is the first time I’ve seen someone arrested for taking milk powder.”
Hong Kong’s intention to protect local infants by providing safe milk formula, and cracking down on smugglers who exploit the current context is understandable. But many netizens have criticized Hong Kong’s methods, saying that the approach goes against Hong Kong’s liberal legacy, and it’s not a nice way to treat Mainlanders, who have always been generous to Hong Kong. Real estate developer Pan Shiyi suggested that Hong Kong’s legislative council revise this “evil-spirited law.” Many people are remorsefully reflecting on the sad state where dairy products can lead to societal chaos. It is an embarrassment for the times, and it reflects the Chinese saying that “if you want to forge ironware you must harden yourself” (i.e. you have to be strong enough to take actions). In response to this, dairy sales giants and organizations have been taciturn.
Before Deng implemented the ‘reform and opening up’ process, Guangdong had many residents who would sneak into Hong Kong. Guangdong’s political leader Xi Zhongxun realized that relying exclusively and obstinately on limiting immigration cannot deter illegal immigration. This realization was the basis for taking on the bold idea of having Shenzhen special economic zone. In the days after the special economic zone regulations were announced, untold numbers of those who were hiding in the mountains, ready to sneak into Hong Kong, suddenly disappeared. Many of those who had already snuck into Hong Kong heard about the relaxing of policies and decided to return to the Mainland.
Xi Zhongxun sadly pointed out, “Talking all day is useless—rising up people’s living standards is the only [effective] method. Otherwise people are going to vote with their feet.” The big “military force” going into Hong Kong today to “sweep out the goods”—could it be that they are also responding to public governance by voting with their feet? Netizen “Moonlight vs Ship” ridiculed such an idea, “Hong Kongers are using an alternate measure [to achieve their aims]; they are proposing plans to the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference to supervise the government and make sure they solve the food safety problem.”
China is already the world’s second largest economy, our Shenzhou rocket has reached the skies, our Jiaolong submarine has dived into the deep sea, and we are increasing our power and prestige in the global arena. Whether the government can offer the people some safe milk formula, and whether they can have their people no longer live in smog—for the Congress these requests are not very challenging ones. “If the Congress cannot solve such issues well,” netizen “Lingyun Zhi Feng” asked, “ how can we face our children and teach them about ‘living in the new China and growing under the red flag’?”
When the head of China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Zhou Bohua, talked about Mainlanders not having confidence in a jar of milk powder, he almost shed some tears. He said, “From the large-scale livestock companies, to the dairy industry, to government departments, they all have a responsibility.” But the government department that has the responsibility to oversee milk production certainly has the most responsibility. At the People’s Congress two years ago, when deliberating with the Shandong delegation, Vice PremierWang Qishan offered this response, “It’s really a shame…we have just gotten to the point where we are eating to fullness, and now there are food safety issues. I am so sorry, this matter really makes us ashamed.” His remarks showed the public a CCP member who is very clear about his responsibility to the people.
The Chinese government established a high-standard food safety committee in the State Council early on. Netizen Fangquan has sincerely suggested that in order to build a prosperous China, the government should start with responding to issues like poisoned milk and the smog and pollution. It was announced at the 18th Party Congress that “as for the contradictions and problems still persisting within the party, we cannot turn a blind eye to them, we cannot run away, we cannot gloss over our errors. We must put all our energy into solving such problems.”
Public servant He Yongqiang assessed the situation like this: If Hong Kong introduced the restriction on milk formula purchase, would it put pressure on the 8 million rural inhabitants and low income individuals? [The individuals that don’t have the money to go to Hong Kong and buy milk powder there anyway] However, it does impair the interests of the big-wigs, and those who have reached middle income status. Indeed, many ordinary Mainlanders act indifferently towards the regulations. They are just looking on the “getting rich first” group resenting the regulations. As worried about the questionable milk as the “getting rich first” group are these ordinary people who aren’t even able to say NO to questionable milk [as they don’t have the money to buy safe milk from Hong Kong or overseas, questionable milk is their only choice]. I hope that the twittering of netizens and those who make up the powerless groups of the society will crescendo into a resonant sound, and that everyone could work together, so that consumers can have the right to speak to the “livestock companies, the dairy industry, and government departments” to promote food safety.
Written by Huaxin Zhu, China Youth Newspaper
Translated by Marjorie Perry
Photo: Nandu.com (南方都市报)