Import duties for tourist cameras?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by iwong, Oct 20, 2010.

  1. I am heading to Beijing in December. Recently I've heard in the news that some guy was forced to pay import duties on his personal iPad even though he showed the customs officer that it was for his personal use, and that it was opened (i.e. not brand new in box), already contains personal files and data, but was still charged 1000RMB (almost US$200) in duties. We understand that China is trying very hard to clamp down smuggling, but this is way beyond reasonable as the guy wasn't carrying tons of them unopened in box across the border for obvious for profit resell.
    The restrictions of course not just apply to iPad's, as we know supply is strained, but to other electronic "goods" as well. Now does anyone who has recently been to mainland China experienced difficulty in bring camera equipment into the country? I am afraid this sort of unreasonable policy might just open a huge can of worms for every tourist who might bring a camera (and maybe a few lenses) who could conceivably be charged several thousand RMB in duties just to shoot some vacation photos.
    P.S. He was passing through the Hong Kong SAR land border from trains. Not sure if the policy is any different if you fly in and land at airports though.
  2. This is the first time I'm hearing of this. I know people who have gone and out of China in the past couple of years and they never had this issue. One of them was even flying with a medium format camera and six lenses...!
    I'm afraid the person you're referring to got caught in a happens and unfortunately there's very little you can do about this...(unless you want to get into an argument there, ask to see a higher official, make a fuss so they give you receipts, take their names - generally make things to totally official that IF it is a scam, most scammers will think it may not be worth it and move to someone else...highly controlled bureaucarcies like the Chinese one, tend to be mortally afraid of their superiors and therefore will rarely pursue something which can get them into trouble...)
  3. Marios could be right, that this was a scam perpetrated by a corrupt official, but China has initiated some pretty rough measures in the last few weeks regarding exports, so that they taking a tough line on imports as well, even to the personal level. They recently embargoed the exportation of rare earths, crucial to many high-tech industries, to Japan, and recently they may be expanding it to other countries, including the U.S. This is a threat to many industries, in particular because in the 1980s the U.S. essentially allowed its rare earths processing to disappear, relinquishing the field to China, which now has a monopoly. But then again, it might be only a corrupt official. Let's see if we pick up more reports.
    On my only trip to China, I also had meetings in two cities Japan. Some of my flight schedules were so tight that I only carried a carry-on, and was only able to take a little (film) point and shoot. No customs official worried about that.
  4. My inlaws went to China last holiday season (12/5 - 12/29) - they brought along an hp laptop and Nikon D40 with 15-20 memory cards and an 18-200 mm lens + plus 3 batteries and complete power converter and charger.
    No problems at all.
    Maybe because the ipad is new tech it drew more attention - but seems funny to me that a person carrying a single ipad is singled out.
  5. I recently (March-April 2010) spent two weeks in China and carried two Canon DSLR cameras, with the following lenses: 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, 70-200mm f/4L IS and a 12-24mm f/4 Tokina; along with accessories, including a 550EX flash...
    I had absolutely no trouble with Chinese customs and/or immigration on the way in or out of Beijing, nor with American customs on the way back into San Francisco...

    Authorities did not give my gear, which I carried in a backpack, a second look anyplace...
    My wife carried an IPOD and IPHONE along with an HP notebook computer - also with no problems...
  6. [Original poster] Some new updates.
    This new policy has only been in effect since August 2010, so experiences earlier than that may not be valid any more.
    This incident has been widely reported in Hong Kong's news media, so the case of a single corrupt official is very unlikely. Further to that, Chinese customs may be concentrating on the border between Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) and the mainland, as it is a very popular route for smugglers to sneak in electronic goods from the tax-free region of Hong Kong into the mainland. Don't know about flights from other countries landing at Chinese airports though.
    A news update today says that the man was charged duties because he failed to declare his iPad. As long as you declare it, you don't pay duties. But the customs officials will still inspect and make sure it is really for personal use. So the onus is on the traveller to declare. Failure to declare, even if the inspection found out that it is not brand new and for personal use, will still result in duties/penalties. Harsh you would say, because many people don't pay attention to those immigration/declaration forms, so traveller beware.
  7. my brother is in China right now and he has with him his Nikon D300s and 2 lenses, an iPhone, a Laptop and a few other electronic accessories that are mostly fairly new. Called him up and ask him if he had problems with customs when he arrived a week ago and just laughed at me. he does speak a little Chinese but thats about it, maybe this is just one of those "special incidents"
    in any case, i wish you enjoy your trip to beijing, its really a great city
  8. There have been many ipad/iphone smuggling from HK to China to be sold. There's hugh black market due to the price differential between china and HK/Macau. Personal single items shouldn't be an issue. I carry my cams a few times back and forth with no problem...It's a forever problem from electronics all the way down to common medicines to baby formulas to cigarettes. It's just cheaper in Macau/HK...
  9. It does happen.
    I have a friend who is driving from Beijing to London in a 4wd. Even after all the permits in the world were granted and after using a Chinese freight fowarding company, the Chinese customs in Shanghai tried to impose a $35000 import duty on the 4WD. In the end, they relented, but not until the Chinese realised that a film was being made for Discovery Channel and that they would look silly.
    We tend to forget that China is still a communist dictatorship and they are just not used to managing tourists and the importing of goods, as well as they are at managing exports.

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