Hong Kong customs chief vows to investigate Yao Ming charity game lacking NBA stars

Commissioner vows to look into whether Trade Descriptions Ordinance was breached, regardless of organiser’s plan to refund tickets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 11:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2017, 11:59pm

Ticket refunds will not stop officials from investigating sales practices for a recent Yao Ming basketball charity event in Hong Kong that some popular NBA stars ended up missing, the new customs chief has announced.

The saga traces back to a statement by one of the event’s hosts, the South China Athletic Association, when selling the tickets in June, that the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder would send stars to take part in the Yao Ming Foundation charity game at the Coliseum last Sunday.

The NBA stars were to face players from the Chinese Basketball Association.

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The game formed part of the city’s celebrations of the 20th anniversary of its handover to Chinese sovereignty. While the Home Affairs Bureau funded the game with HK$10 million, the best seats sold for HK$7,800.

But fans were left disappointed as no members of the three NBA teams were included when the official players’ list was announced five days before the game.

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Of the 10,846 seats sold, 70 per cent were filled on the day of the event. It was not known how many ticket buyers would seek a refund, a process due to start later this month.

Refunding customers will not stop our investigation
Customs commissioner Hermes Tang

Customs commissioner Hermes Tang Yi-hoi said the authority had received 49 complaints relating to the event as of Friday.

Tang promised to look into whether the event organiser had breached the Trade Descriptions Ordinance.

“Even though the organiser has refunded the customers [before they complained], as long as we receive complaints from them, we will still investigate [the cases] under the ordinance,” he said on Friday.

“Refunding customers will not stop our investigation.”

Under the ordinance, any trader who applies a false or misleading trade description to a service or product is liable to a maximum fine of HK$500,000 and five years’ imprisonment.

Tang said traders and suppliers had a “responsibility” when receiving payment to provide services or products as they were described. He added that a failure to do so would be unlawful.

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Foundation chairman Yao Ming, a retired CBA and NBA player, defended the absence of the basketball stars, saying the players had only agreed to take part in the match as volunteers. He said he regretted that some could not join owing to personal and family reasons.

Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard JR Smith and Sacramento Kings veteran Vince Carter played at the event. The CBA team won the game, 86-83.

Yao said he hoped the money that had been raised could create more opportunities for young people to participate in sport.