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Smugglers Use Suitcases to Move Illegal Immigrants into Hong Kong - 2003-02-07


Smugglers trying to bring illegal immigrants from South Asia into Hong Kong have begun cramming their human cargo in large suitcases. Smugglers have been rolling the suitcases into Hong Kong at busy border crossing points from mainland China.

The smuggling ring came to light a few months ago when one suitcase migrant, a Pakistan national, was caught and sentenced to 18 months in prison for entering Hong Kong illegally.

The man's lawyer, Solomon Chong, explained how the smuggling is done. "[The smuggler] took a briefcase, a sizable suitcase, it was the size that could contain a person and inside it was some gentleman. That gentleman, according to prosecutors, seems to be part of the game. And they attempted to cross the border, but they were stopped and searched."

According to the South China Morning Post newspaper, smugglers are typically paid $64 for each migrant they roll into Hong Kong in a suitcase. The suitcase of choice is a large cloth pull-along case, big enough to hold a 70-kilogram man. The fabric allows a person to breathe while zipped up in the bag.

According to the newspaper, smugglers prefer busy border crossing times during morning and evening rush hours or holiday seasons. Tens of thousands of people cross from China to Hong Kong every day on the border, and it usually takes about an hour to get through customs and immigration during busy periods.

It is difficult for South Asians to get entry visas to Hong Kong, so they go first to China and then try to sneak into the city.

Hong Kong is a top destination for illegal migrants. Immigration authorities here apprehended about 11,900 illegal workers in the territory last year, most of them from China.

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 after a century and a half of British rule. It maintains separate economic and legal systems.