25 October 2016
An online video shows a middle-aged mainlander busily pouring red wine into Coke bottles. Photo: Facebook (Lostdutch)
An online video shows a middle-aged mainlander busily pouring red wine into Coke bottles. Photo: Facebook (Lostdutch)

Fancy some red wine in a Coke bottle? Parallel trade in action

Contrary to common belief, parallel trading is not an easy job.

It may be a quick, if illegal, way of earning money, but consider what parallel traders have to go through to buy their goods in Hong Kong, carry them across the border without getting caught, and re-selling them on the mainland.

It involves a lot of cunning and daring, not to mention physical work — and the fortitude to withstand the ire of local residents who are not amused by their trade.

A video clip showing a middle-aged mainlander engaging in the business clearly illustrates this point.

The two-minute video, which has gone viral on social media, was taken by a Hong Kong-based Dutchman who goes by the pseudonym Lostdutch on a Sunday afternoon in Sheung Shui, the favorite hunting ground of mainland parallel traders.

The man on the video is seen squatting on the ground, intently pouring red wine of at least three different brands into large Coke bottles with the aid of a plastic funnel.

Apparently, he wanted to conceal the true content of his luggage when he later goes through Customs at the border.

A total of 14 bottles of red wine are seen, but the man appears to have the patience and dedication to finish the task at hand.

On the internet, netizens are puzzled at what the man was doing: Who would ever want to buy red wine in plastic soft drink bottles?

Wouldn’t his cargo arouse the suspicion of customs officers at the border?

But, some wonder, could it be that the content would later be re-packaged and passed off as premium wine of rare vintage to fetch high prices on the mainland?

Or could it be that the man is simply a wine lover and all that collection is for his own consumption?

At least, others chime in, it shows that some mainland restaurants insist on serving their customers genuine wine.

One thing that’s indisputable is that there’s a huge demand for wine in China. 

According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the mainland accounted for 60.6 percent of Hong Kong’s wine exports in 2014.

Currently, China imposes a series of taxes on wine — import tariff (14 percent for bottled wine and 20 percent of bulk wine), value-added tax (17 percent) and consumption tax (10 percent) — all for an effective tax rate of 48 to 56 percent.

Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland residents are allowed to bring only 0.75 liter of alcoholic beverages with 12 percent or more alcoholic content duty-free across the border.

That’s enough motivation for our man to go through the laborious task of transferring wine into empty soft-drink bottles.

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