Disc piracy cases soar 94pc as girls recruited for sales

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 12:00am

The number of video-disc piracy cases has almost doubled this year, with officials particularly concerned over a six-fold increase in the number of young girls involved in the trade.

One of the girls, arrested three times, was aged 11.

Assistant Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Poon Yeung-kwong, said the number of piracy cases detected in the first 11 months of the year soared 94 per cent to 11,506 from 5,921 for the whole of last year.

He put the rise down to an increased number of raids, rather than a rising incidence of piracy, but said officials were concerned about the surge in the number of teenagers engaged in the illegal trade. The number of juveniles aged under 16 arrested increased eight per cent from 233 for the whole of last year to 253 up to the start of this month.

Among the juveniles, the number of girls went from 13 last year to 91. The youngest was aged 11 and was caught selling pirated discs three times within two weeks in Mongkok during the summer holidays. She has been prosecuted and sent to a girls' home.

'We're concerned about the problem. It may be because it's quick money. They are usually being approached at places like the game centres and offered pay of $250 to $350 a day,' said Mr Poon.

Frontline Customs officers found that while in the past it was usually boys selling pirated DVDs or VCDs at hawker stalls, more girls were now being seen manning the stalls, with the boys keeping a lookout.

The department's investigation into the juveniles' cases found half of them came from broken families and about 10 per cent of them had previously committed minor offences such as shoplifting.

Seven teenagers aged 13 and 14 have been arrested in three days of anti-piracy raids. About 145,000 pirated discs were seized in the operation, including the blockbuster Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which is not on general release in Hong Kong until Thursday.

Mr Poon said officers would step up raids during the Christmas holidays and were studying if they could refer some marginal-case teenagers to Government social workers for follow-up counselling.

The number of small centres raided where discs are copied - which have apparently replaced large production plants - increased from seven last year to 42 in the first 11 months of this year. Mr Poon also said this was due to an increased number of raids.

Mr Poon said a drop in the number of pirated discs seized - from 8.4 million last year to 8.2 million this year - showed piracy was on the wane. The number of people arrested for piracy-related activities dropped eight per cent from last year's 2,751 to 2,530 in the first 11 months of this year.