More than 500 mothers yesterday signed up for a Macau government scheme under which those with babies less than a year old will be given priority to buy baby milk formula.
The action follows claims of a shortage of formula, with mothers standing in long queues at pharmacies and other stores. A number of mothers registering their babies praised the government for taking swift action.
The move put added pressure on Hong Kong to adopt similar measures. But lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said such a move could be seen as discrimination against mainlanders.
"Hong Kong works on the principle of a free market and such measures can be seen as being discriminatory," Tse said. "Besides, we can't set priorities on all items. Will it come to chocolates next?"
Hong Kong General Chamber of Pharmacy chairman Lau Oi-kwok said it would be difficult to implement such a scheme in Hong Kong, which has a much larger population.
"Besides only a few popular brands have run out of stock. I think the supply will stabilize after the Lunar New Year."
The Food and Health Bureau also quoted Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing- man pointing to the market and population when comparing Hong Kong with Macau.
"We have a consensus that the measures on which we have agreed will be more appropriate to the Hong Kong situation for the time being," Ko said.
But this did not calm tempers during a meeting of the Legislative Council's security panel with accusations of inefficiency in dealing with parallel trading.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung- kwok insisted parallel trading is not smuggling and pointed out that 60 percent of those arrested were Hong Kong residents.
But lawmaker Lam Tai-fai said the traders disrupt the daily life of residents and suggested restricting them to specific carriages on trains or arranging for them to transfer goods during non-working hours.
Commenting on the chaos outside the MTR's Mong Kok East Station on Sunday - in which protesters harangued passengers with oversized baggage - Tse said while the policy to admit individual travelers is beneficial to Hong Kong, it lead to the serious problem of parallel trading.