Asia Pacific

China e-commerce sites block sales of protest gear to Hong Kong

Bloomberg

Hong Kong demonstrators will need to look beyond mainland China for supplies of protest gear that’s defined the look of the movement.

Queries on Chinese e-commerce portals such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Taobao for umbrellas, masks and helmets would return the searches as “item not found” for buyers based in Hong Kong, while those on the mainland had positive results. Hong Kong logistics companies said a list of “sensitive items” which include black T-shirts, banners, laser pens and facial masks will be detained at customs.

Protests in Hong Kong have dragged on since early June, with the government warning of the damage to the economy and the city’s reputation. Police have used tear gas and rubber bullets on demonstrators who linger after peaceful rallies ended, and the confrontations have turned increasingly violent in recent weeks.

In such fights, protesters wear gas masks and helmets, and police have said some target strong laser beams at them. After entering search queries, e-commerce site JD.com showed helmets and laser pens are “out of storage for Hong Kong and Macau.”

A representative of Hong Kong’s customs says it didn’t receive any directive to control the import of protest-related items, and it doesn’t know if there are any restrictions from mainland customs. Outside of business hours, a call to China’s customs went unanswered, while representatives for JD and Alibaba, which owns Taobao, didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

According to a notice on the website of Hong Kong logistics company Dailybuyco.com, customs has strengthened controls over imports and exports. The current list of “sensitive items” also includes towels, umbrellas, glow sticks, flashlights and helmets. The list, as defined by the customs, is constantly changing, the website said, without specifying if it was Hong Kong or China authorities.

Another delivery company Taopai.hk posted a similar notice earlier this month, saying that customs and the Hong Kong government are posting restrictions over imported goods, including yellow umbrellas, yellow helmets, iron pipes and knives. No “goods for riot” can be transported in freight, the post said.

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