Three smuggling rings that allegedly used schoolchildren to carry electronic products across the border have been broken up, law enforcement authorities said on Monday.
Twenty-three people were nabbed in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and more than 50 million yuan (.5 million) worth of smuggled items were seized, according to the Shenzhen public security bureau.
Electronics - mainly mobile phones - were smuggled into Shenzhen hidden in the bags of children who were attending school in Hong Kong. The children crossed the border into Shenzhen after school, the bureau said, adding that the suspects managed to put the items into the children's bags by enticing them with McDonald's food or icecream.
The children carried a large number of electronic products a little at a time, the bureau said, adding that around 8 million yuan worth of taxes had been evaded.
"The successful crackdown on the three gangs has effectively curbed the illegal activity and protected cross-border schoolchildren," according to an official from the bureau who didn't want to be identified.
The police operation was part of an anti-smuggling campaign that began at the start of the year. So far, 41 gangs, with 1,053 people involved, have been smashed. More than 1,100 guns, 6.16 metric tons of drugs, 280 tons of frozen food, a number of high-end electronic products and other items worth at least 470 million yuan have been seized.
Because of the crackdown, other illegal trade and human smuggling activities have been reduced significantly, enhancing the stability and security of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border, the official said.
It is not the first time that smugglers have attempted to take advantage of cross-border schoolchildren to smuggle merchandise.
In May, more than 200 mobile phones and a large number of bird nests worth nearly 1 million yuan were seized in the bags of schoolchildren by Shenzhen's Huanggang Customs.