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Crime in Hong Kong

Action needed now against Hong Kong ticket touts

The second attack in three weeks highlights why the city must get tough on scalpers, and the time has come for the government to take concrete measures

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 9:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 11:05pm

Ticket scalping is back in the news again after a mainland man who had queued for more than a week to buy tickets for concerts by Canto-pop singer Andy Lau Tak-wah at Hong Kong Coliseum was wounded in a knife attack over the weekend. The Chai Wan attack, the second of its kind in the city in three weeks, has now prompted the organiser of the shows to sell tickets only over the internet and telephone. The police, to their credit, quickly detained four suspected triad members for the attack and also touting, but there needs to be tougher measures to tackle the problem.

The cancellation of over the counter ticket sales at Urbtix outlets is an understandable but passive response. Whether it will set an example to others on how to deal with the problem effectively remains to be seen. While there will be no more queues at counters when sales officially begin on Tuesday, online touting may become even worse as a result. The use of software to bypass limits on the number of tickets an individual may purchase at one time has long been an issue. Touts can hide behind a computer screen for their haul of tickets at an even lower cost. The less visible scalping becomes, the more difficult is law enforcement.

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The resale of tickets at heavily marked up prices on the black market has frustrated the public for years. Fuelled by an outcry over a few sought after shows early this year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged to consider criminalising touting at government-run venues. Months have passed but the problem remains. In response to the latest fiasco, the Home Affairs Bureau has only adhered to its well rehearsed line of completing a review by the end of the year. This shows the matter is not being treated with the right sense of urgency.

This sorry state of affairs owes much to outdated laws, bureaucratic inertia and questionable sales tactics. This includes allowing organisers to keep up to 80 per cent of tickets for internal distribution and sales, thereby reducing supply and encouraging touting. Officials should show greater will in combating the scourge and speed up the review. Hopefully, there will be concrete measures taken before the problem hits the headlines again.