Lowu's fake-goods sellers unfazed by US counterfeit snoops
Counterfeit goods still on sale at shopping centre, despite warning US politicians investigating property right theft were coming on 'secret' visit
It was still easy to buy a fake Louis Vuitton handbag yesterday at Lowu Commercial City, a shopping and entertainment complex on the border with Shenzhen well known for its counterfeit goods, even though store owners were warned a delegation from the US Congress was coming.
The management company at the centre handed out a notice to every shop on Tuesday saying a House of Representatives delegation on intellectual property rights would visit the shopping mall the following day.
Shops were told to remove from their shelves any fake suitcases, clothes, glasses and electronics, especially counterfeit American brands.
Staff were also warned not to hassle customers.
"We were told by the local market supervision and administration bureau verbally that the intellectual property rights protection delegation from the US House of Representative would visit two places in Shenzhen, our centre and Dafen oil painting village," said He Shengan, the deputy general manager of centre's management company.
"I heard the group would investigate in secret. We have no idea who they are and when they will arrive," said He.
The US Congress press office could not confirm the trip, and the House's Foreign Affairs Committee could not be reached for comment.Lowu Commercial City and Dafen village became well known for their fake products over the previous decade, but the authorities in Shenzhen authorities say the situation has improved as anti-counterfeit- goods squads regularly carry out inspections at stores.
"Lowu Commercial City is home to more than 1,200 small stores on six floors. Only eight shops have been found selling fake goods and were ordered to close until they cleaned up their operations," said He.
Officials launch frequent undercover investigations, but He admitted only fake products using famous logos are classified as counterfeit goods.
"It's hard to punish shops and call their goods fake if their bag only looks like a Louis Vuitton but does not have the Louis Vuitton logo," said He.
Staff at Lowu Commercial City are usually not shy about shouting out to attract potential customers, but yesterday most sat quietly inside their stores.
"Today business is very poor and we don't want to make trouble selling anything wrong to consumers, especially those American-looking people." said a handbag seller.
However, at least three handbag vendors showed the South China Morning Post their catalogues of famous brands, including Chanel, with one fake luxury bag selling for 900 yuan (HK$1,130).
"The products are not here, but in a warehouse nearby. If you pay now, I can call the warehouse to send the handbag here." said another vendor.
As well as fake goods, Lowu Commercial City is well known among Hong Kong shoppers for made-to-measure clothes, shoes and household furnishings at rock bottom prices.
Each day about 30,000 people descend on the area in search of a bargain.
Nearby Dafen was set up as an artists' colony by a Hong Kong artist and dealer who was lured by low rents. It has become famous over the past decade for producing cheap but high-quality reproductions of art masterpieces.