Law needs to come down hard on HK's sellers of fake goods

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2007, 12:00am

I write in response to the letter by Customs assistant commissioner Y.K. Tam 'Heavy penalties for shop fraud' (April 15), touting the success of his department in curtailing the illegal selling of 'copy watches' and other fakes.

I can only assume Mr Tam has not walked down Nathan Road recently. Every day I walk from my office in Humphreys Avenue to the Peninsula hotel. The touts selling the fakes are alive and flourishing.

Mr Tam states that the 'scale of counterfeit goods retail activities has shrunk drastically'. Obviously the touts do not hassle Mr Tam as their target is 'western tourists'. The copy business costs Hong Kong millions of dollars in lost revenue. Businesspeople are accosted by the touts and, as a result, decide to take their manufacturing business to other places where they have less chance of being 'knocked off'.

Clients have said to me: 'If the Hong Kong and China authorities allow this illegal business to flourish so openly, what assurance can I have that they care in the slightest if my products will be copied and sold as counterfeit goods?'

One also must consider the business lost by legitimate stores paying exorbitant rents and then having tourists think: 'Why should I buy a real watch for HK$40,000 to HK$50,000 in this store, when my friends back at the office will say, 'Hey you got a real nice copy in Hong Kong'.'

This business is not hard to stop. I challenge Mr Tam to give me three back-up police and the authority to arrest the touts, the salesmen the touts work for, the distributors (who can be easily traced by the storekeepers), and the landlords who rent the space to the illegal shops, and within a month Nathan Road will be free of this illegal activity. The question is whether Hong Kong's authorities really want to stop these sales.

Mr Tam boasts 709 arrests last year - about two arrests per day. What about convictions and jail time? I doubt the punishment of these offenders was significant. If I walk around Tsim Sha Tsui for 10 minutes, I will be approached more than twice. If 709 arrests of these lawbreakers were made in a week, that might have some impact.

Zvi Enav, Discovery Bay