'Early birds' angry at comics-fair chaos

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 August, 2008, 12:00am

Waves of boos reverberated around a comics fair yesterday from people angered by the organisers' inability to maintain order and ensure people were admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Visitors complained that many had jumped the queue and that privileged visitors had been allowed in ahead of those who had queued for three days or more.

'Early bird cards' intended for the first 300 people queueing so they got priority in buying hotly sought items had just caused confusion, they said.

A queue of more than 800 people had formed outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre before the 10th Animation-Comic-Game Hong Kong fair opened at 11am.

Some had been camping outside the convention centre since Tuesday in the hope of securing limited-edition figures that they could sell later for a profit.

At about 9am, people were ushered into the centre to receive the early bird cards. But many long-time queuers said last-minute queue-jumpers had been able to obtain the cards, and once inside they had not been honoured by all stallholders.

Form Four student Oscar Leung, 16, said he had been pushed from the 20th place he had secured on Tuesday to 50th by 'bad latecomers'.

Police intervened amid the growing anger and were seen escorting several people to the back of the queue to line up again.

Form Two student Jacky Cheung, 15, said exhibitors did not check whether customers had the priority cards and those with the cards had to queue up like those without them.

People were stranded in the middle of the hall as a queue stretching across 10 booths blocked a main passage. The queue was formed by people hoping to snap up packages of popular game Run Online.

Form Six student Steven Chan, 18, was the first customer of U1 Technology, which was selling limited- edition figures of popular game Little Fighter Online. He paid HK$800 for the figurine, which he estimated could earn him more than HK$10,000 on resale, and was given a not-for-sale transparent figurine as a gift.

Fair chief executive Leung Chung-poon denied there had been confusion over the early bird cards, saying all booth-holders were informed about the cards.

He said fans who held the cards had 10 to 20 minutes to buy limited-edition items before the main queue was allowed entry, and the privilege was of little significance at booths not selling limited-edition items.

The organiser said about 82,000 visitors were recorded by 5pm, a rise of 20 per cent from the first day of the fair last year. 'We are in general satisfied with the growth,' Mr Leung said.