Courier service SF Express has fired the general manager of its Hong Kong service, following an incident in which a branch refused to send a cross to Macau.

A Catholic volunteer went to an SF Express branch in To Kwa Wan on Wednesday to send gifts and cards collected from an event, as well as a hand-made cross, to believers in Macau. But a staff member at the branch said the cross was a “religious item” and that SF Express could not send it.

SF Express cross
The cross that SF Express refused to send. Photo: Facebook/Vanished Archives.

The incident came after several recent cases of alleged political censorship, in which the Shenzhen-based firm refused to accept delivery requests of books with political content.

SF Express confirmed the incident in a statement on Friday and said it had completed an investigation: “According to legal requirements, the standard for accepting and delivering items in every region must be in line with the destination’s customs laws. However, the management of SF Express Hong Kong failed to understand the legal requirements, and failed to provide adequate training to SF Express Hong Kong staff members, causing front line staff to act more strictly than necessary.”

The courier service said it was shocked by the incident and that it would make sure it would not happen again.

“Our group has decided that the general manager of SF Express Hong Kong will take responsibility and resign,” it said. “Our group expresses deep apologies to the people affected, and we thank the media for its supervision,” it added.

SF Express
Photo: SF Express Facebook.

SF Express was founded in 1993 in Guangdong province and is one of China’s largest couriers.

Hong Kong author Leung Man-tao said on Sunday that SF Express had refused to send three books from Taiwan to Hong Kong due to “recent content restrictions placed by the Chinese government on articles and books.”

SF Express Taiwan said in a statement issued on Friday saying there had been a misunderstanding and that a member of staff had given an incorrect response to Leung. It said there have been no restrictions on books sent from Taiwan to Hong Kong.

The company added that its policy was that staff members should warn senders if their items might be returned by the destination, or confiscated, to protect the interests of customers: “SF Express Taiwan expresses deep apology if we hurt the rights and feelings of consumers.”

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.