After scalpers snap up tickets for comedian Dayo Wong and Taiwanese band Mayday, Carrie Lam promises crackdown

There’s been a surge of public anger as touts hawk show tickets at exorbitant prices

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 April, 2018, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 4:25pm

Prompted by the upswell of public anger over Hong Kong’s black market for show tickets, the city’s leader on Wednesday announced a potential crackdown on touts, saying she may make ticket scalping illegal at government-run venues.

However, lawmakers said her pledge did not go far enough, and suggested the government combat the reselling of tickets online and require show organisers to allocate more tickets to the public.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made the announcement during a question-and-answer session in the legislature, following complaints from internet users who could not buy tickets to watch a popular stand-up comedian in July and a concert by Taiwanese band Mayday next month.

A HK$280 ticket for Wong’s performance appeared on resale site Viagogo for more than HK$1,200, while tickets for other shows have been regularly resold online for five times more than their face value.

Comedian Dayo Wong Tze-wah said on Facebook that this was “outrageous”, and angry fans urged the government to introduce a “real name registration” system to stop the problem from recurring.

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On Wednesday, Lam said she was considering making amendments to the laws that cover ticket sales in the city.

“The Leisure and Cultural Services Department will evaluate the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance to see if it can be expanded to cover the government premises, so as to make ticket scalping a criminal offence.

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

Ticket scalping is technically a criminal offence at private venues in the city that hold entertainment licences, but the punishment under the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance limits it to a fine of just HK$2,000 for an offence.

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

Legislator Ma Fung-kwok said sending touts to prison could be an option for consideration.

“Jail terms would definitely deter people, but of course that would also depend on how acceptable society finds that punishment,” he said.

Ma said apart from amending the ordinance, the government should also look into how to curb the resale of tickets on the internet, as that was an even bigger concern.

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, a barrister by trade, echoed that sentiment and said the law only targeted the physical reselling of tickets outside the show venues.

Jail terms would definitely deter people
Legislator Ma Fung-kwok

He argued the introduction of a “real name registration” system would be the most effective way to combat both online and physical ticket touting.

Lam said the LCSD had conducted a pilot scheme on ticketing by way of “real name registration” and the administration would assess how effective it had been in curbing ticket touting.

“But of course, it would also depend on whether the organisers are willing to cooperate,” she said.

Ma also called on the government to raise requirements for organisers to offer not less than 20 per cent of tickets to the public. Currently, they are required to set aside at least 20 per cent of tickets for public sale and can decide what to do with the rest.

Secretary of Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah admitted the threshold was too low, and pledged to study the possibility of requiring performers to allocate more tickets to the public. The evaluation is due to be completed within this year, he added.

In his Facebook post, Wong called on the government to plug legal loopholes, saying citizens’ rights to enjoy entertainment should not exploited.

“We have been working very hard to prepare for the performance, but some people who put in no effort are now selling the tickets with a seven-fold price increase,” he said. “And those fans who have been supporting [us] for a long time have to bear these prices.

“I have always accepted the fact that the world is not perfect, but this is way too imperfect. It is outrageous.”

Mayday said they were “distressed” by their fans’ unhappiness, and expressed their gratitude to their supporters.