Children Smuggle iPhones over the Border to China from Hong Kong in Return for Ice Cream

Children who live in mainland China and attend school in Hong Kong are being used to smuggle iPhones across the border in return for ice cream and fast food from McDonalds, Chinese officials have claimed.

In one recent haul, customs officials recently discovered $148,000 worth of Apple merchandise, including iPhone 6s and 7s and Samsung S8 phones, as well as 10kg of bird's nests, used to make the sought-after Chinese delicacy, bird's nest soup.

Officials told The South China Morning Post that they stopped the children at the border between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland because their school bags looked bulky.

"These children's bags were all bulging. From the outside appearance you could see they were filled with things," a customs official said.

Instead being offered money to carry the contraband across the border, they were promised ice cream and McDonalds meals. None of the children were arrested but officials lectured them about allowing themselves to be exploited by traffickers.

It was reported that the children lived in the Chinese city of Shenzhen but crossed the border daily to attend school in Hong Kong, which has been permitted by the Chinese authorities since 2001. Since then, the number of Chinese children being educated in the former British colony has increased from 3,800 to over 28,000, according to Hong Kong statistics.

Most students are educated in Hong Kong's northern territories, including Tai Po and Sha Tau Kok.

Authorities believe smugglers are using schoolchildren to traffic goods after a recent crackdown on cross-border traders. Electronic items are cheaper and more readily available in Hong Kong than they are in the Chinese mainland.