Air guns are the latest and most profitable items on a parallel goods trader’s shopping list amid a huge demand in mainland China.
At least five university students from Shenzhen have been arrested by customs authorities in recent weeks for trying to smuggle air pistols and lead bullets across the border, Apple Daily reported Wednesday.
Shenzhen customs officials suspect the young smugglers have been hired by criminal syndicates based on the mainland.
Investigation showed that smugglers could make a profit of as much as 1,200 yuan (US$191.33) for every piece of replica gun they manage to get into the mainland.
Upon interrogation, the students told police they had responded to online messages offering to pay big amounts for those who could buy air guns from Hong Kong and bring them back to the mainland.
They said they came to Hong Kong under the Individual Visit Scheme, bought the guns at model and toy shops on Kwong Wah Street in Mong Kok, dismantled them into small parts and hid them in their traveling bags on their return to the mainland.
So far, Shenzhen customs authorities have seized 41 air guns and more than 3,000 rounds of lead bullets from returning mainland visitors.
A shop owner at an air gun shop in Mong Kok said there has been an increase in the number of mainland customers, who often asked them to dismantle the guns because it was easier to carry them in parts.
As it is an offense to export air guns to the mainland, one shop owner said they refuse clients who want the guns or accessories to be shipped to the mainland.
An industry insider said the smuggling of air guns into the mainland started with the introduction of the individual visit scheme back in 2003, but the frequency of such activities has grown dramatically over the past two years.
Air pistols with muzzle energy of six to seven joules are quite popular among mainland gun aficionados, although the legal limit under Hong Kong laws is only two joules, the source said.
On the mainland, air guns with the power of over 1.8 joules are considered real guns, making their possession a serious criminal offense.
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