China’s mainlanders have always shopped for luxury goods in Hong Kong, owing to the special administrative region’s lower taxes, but lately, discouraged by news of rampant counterfeit productions from rice and meat to condoms, mainlanders are now buying groceries and other daily essentials in Hong Kong as well.

Shopping in Hong Kong is now nearly a part of some shoppers’ daily routine, according to Yahoo News, because mainlanders simply do not have faith in products made in China anymore. Condoms and sanitary products are now on mainlanders' shopping lists, a pharmacist in the Sheung Shui area of Hong Kong said. A grocer in the same area identified by his last name, Wang, said, 70 percent of the grocery store’s profit comes from mainland shoppers.

RTR3AFC5 Shoppers from mainland China wait for their guide in front of a Christmas installation outside Times Square shopping mall at the Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong. Photo: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A couple surnamed Zheng from the city of Foshan, in Hong Kong’s neighboring Guangdong province, said they come to Hong Kong regularly to shop and spend nearly 10,000 yuan ($1,631.14) every time.

Depending on where shoppers come from, a trip to Hong Kong could take as little as a few hours on a bus or a train from Shenzhen, a city in Guangdong. Shoppers from farther inland usually have to fly to Hong Kong. 

“There is a lot of counterfeit medicine in the mainland, who knows what will happen to you if you eat them?” the couple added.

The most popular item, however, is rice. With China’s cadmium rice scandal, this staple in the Chinese diet has become dangerous. Hong Kong has regulated that each shopper is only allowed to take 15 kilograms (33 lbs) of rice out of Hong Kong. Violators are fined HK$6,400 ($824.35). That wouldn’t stop smugglers though, who are now paying women HK$80 to bring rice into the mainland, which they then sell for a higher price.

Mainland shoppers’ old favorite, luxury goods, are still in high demand. Two mainland shoppers were seen towing 20 brand-name handbags away, according to Yahoo News.

“Hong Kong’s luxury stores carry more variety. In addition, luxury goods are heavily taxed in the mainland, making them more expensive, that’s why we choose to shop in Hong Kong,” a male shopper, identified by his last name Li, from the coastal city of Suzhou said. 

Mainland China levies a 17 percent tax on all luxury goods, whereas Hong Kong levies no import taxes on most luxury goods, making it much cheaper to make large purchases in Hong Kong. 

Mainland consumers may be spending a lot overseas, but they are not indiscriminate in where their money goes.  

“It’s not as good to shop in Hong Kong. Most salespeople are very impatient,” a mainland shopper surnamed Li said, according to Hexun, a Chinese financial news portal. Some shoppers also said that when the salespeople realize they are from the mainland, they will try to sell them impractical, pricey items.

“Luxury goods in Singapore and South Korea are cheaper than they are in Hong Kong now,” a travel agent surnamed Qin said, according to Hexun. “Many mainland shoppers are going to those countries instead.”