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Hong Kong gigs

Touts snap up tickets as Hong Kong fans queue overnight for chance to see Dayo Wong

Scalpers operating in city despite leader’s promise to crack down on practice, which leaves fans facing exorbitant fees 

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 11:01pm

The promise by Hong Kong’s leader to clamp down on the black market for show tickets appears to have done little to deter the city’s ticket touts.

As hundreds of fans formed long queues outside various ticket offices on Tuesday morning in the hope of getting to see the comedian Dayo Wong Tze-wah in July, the Post saw a suspected scalper operating outside one of the 34 Urbtix outlets selling tickets.

That was despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor vowing this month to begin cracking down on the practice by making scalping illegal at government-run venues. 

For now, however, it appears to be business as usual for the city’s touts.

With Wong scheduled to perform 26 shows this summer, some 150,000 tickets went on sale on Tuesday, and at the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui touts were believed to have used dozens of elderly people to snap up some of the first available.

While sales started at 10am, numbered coupons were distributed from 8.45am to people in the line according to their place in the queue.

At the front were those suspected to be the touts’ surrogates, who, when asked, declined to say whether they were Wong fans or how many tickets they were purchasing. Customers were limited to four tickets each.

Several of the elderly people were seen handing white envelopes to a man outside the centre after a successful purchase, before they returned to the queue in an attempt to buy more. 

They refused to say what was inside the envelope, and why they had lined up again.

Calls for real name system for showgoers in Hong Kong so scalpers can’t profit from exorbitant ticket resales

Touts are already believed to have snapped up the majority of tickets for Wong’s shows, which were initially put up for sale online. A HK$280 ticket appeared on resale site Viagogo for more than HK$1,200.

At the time, Wong called it “outrageous” on his Facebook page.

On Tuesday, some genuine Wong fans said the problem with scalping needed to be addressed with tighter regulations. One customer believed the city’s scalpers should be jailed.

Jelly Chan, a 21-year-old who had queued overnight to buy two tickets, said she had called the police after seeing some elderly people pushing in at the front of the queue.

“A person asked those grannies and aunties to stand ahead of us,” Chan said. “I have reported to the police twice, as I think people should not jump the queue.

“Some grannies told me they actually did not know who Wong was, but they just came here to queue.”

She said she would support tighter rules, including customers giving their name as they purchase, if it would cut down on touts.

“I hope there would be less scalping,” she said. “It is pretty exhausting to queue. I would agree if we can purchase tickets with our identity cards and collect them later.”

Annies Ko, a Japanese woman who has lived in Hong Kong for 12 years, said she would also prefer to buy tickets that way.

Ko, who arrived at the centre at 7am and bought four tickets for herself and her friends, said the scalping problem was a hard one to solve. Lam’s promise of a crackdown was “better than nothing”, she said.

A 57-year-old man, who gave his name only as Wu, wanted more severe punishment for touts.

“It would be best to introduce imprisonment,” said Wu, who arrived at about 9am from Yuen Long to buy four tickets. “If there is no imprisonment, the penalty would not be enough of a deterrent.”

Ticket scalping in Hong Kong is just business and should not be overly regulated

Scalping is technically a criminal offence at private venues in the city that hold entertainment licences. But the punishment is limited to a fine of just HK$2,000.

Historically, the ordinance does not apply to venues run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, such as Hong Kong Coliseum, something Lam is looking at changing.

“The Leisure and Cultural Services Department will evaluate the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance to see if it can be expanded to cover government premises, so as to make ticket scalping a criminal offence,” Lam said when discussing the issue earlier this month.

“It will also consider whether to raise the punishment.”