CANDICE CHAU | HONG KONG FREE PRESS
More than 100 officers stage co-ordinated raids on 25 AbouThai stores across the city, seizing products worth a total of HK$400,000.
A series of co-ordinated customs raids on outlets of a Hong Kong retail chain – whose founder is accused of breaking the city’s tough new national security laws – has sparked claims that the action was politically motivated.
The raids by Hong Kong Customs on a warehouse and 25 stores in 18 districts across the city belonging to the chain, AboutThai, took place on Thursday. Customs chiefs say they were carried out in connection with missing safety warnings on cleaning products.
AbouThai sells imported products from Thailand and its founder, Mike Lam, is one of 47 democrats charged under the national security law. Lam is currently on bail accused of conspiring to subvert state power in February over his participation in a primary election for the since-postponed Legislative Council election.
During the primary election, AbouThai storefronts were used as polling stations. Also, in the wake of the raids, some other pro-democracy stores have introduced promotions to encourage people to shop there.
Customs investigators accuse the group of violating Consumer Goods Safety Regulations for not putting bilingual warnings or cautions on 14 types of shower gel, household cleaning detergents, and clothing bleaches. According to AbouThai, the value of merchandise seized in the raids was close to HK$1 million.
On Friday, the Customs and Excise Department said that 8,805 products worth around HK$400,000 were seized from AbouThai’s 25 stores across Hong Kong and a warehouse in Tsuen Wan. The department added that a 33-year-old male company director had been arrested and released on bail.