26 August 2019
The existing law that prohibits ticket scalping does not apply to LCSD-run facilities such as the Hong Kong Coliseum. Photo: HKEJ/Internet
The existing law that prohibits ticket scalping does not apply to LCSD-run facilities such as the Hong Kong Coliseum. Photo: HKEJ/Internet

Sweeping law change needed to curb rampant scalping

The recent tour of local stand-up comedian Dayo Wong Tze-wah has taken the city by storm, but, unfortunately, it has also given rise to another wave of rampant ticket scalping.

Amid mounting calls for the authorities to crack down on such activities, the police mounted an entrapment operation last week and arrested three scalpers, who came from the mainland, outside the Hong Kong Coliseum near Hung Hom MTR station.

Of those arrested, one was convicted at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court last Thursday and sentenced to two months in jail.

It should be noted, however, that the mainland scalper was convicted of breach of conditions of stay, rather than scalping. The other two scalpers faced the same criminal charge.

As to the four other people involved in the case, the Department of Justice didn’t even press charges against them. They are all permanent Hong Kong residents.

So why the different treatment? And why did the justice department charge the mainlanders with breach of conditions of stay instead of scalping?

The reason is simple: there are major loopholes in our existing Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance (Cap. 172), which only applies to licensed places of public entertainment.

However, since the ordinance doesn’t apply to sports and performance facilities run and managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department such as the Hong Kong Coliseum, the Queen Elizabeth Stadium and the Hong Kong Stadium, scalping isn’t against the law in those public venues.

That explains why the mainland scalper was only convicted of breaching conditions of stay while the other four local people didn’t even have to stand trial. Even though they were caught red-handed scalping outside the Hong Kong Coliseum, what they did is not against existing laws.

And even if Hongkongers had been caught and convicted of scalping in licensed venues of public entertainment, they would only have been fined HK$2,000, which is chump change when compared to their earnings from scalping.

The ridiculous outcome of this case is definitely an indictment of the current Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance, which was passed in 1919 and only amended once in 1950. It has proven completely outdated. Immediate action must be taken to address the issue.

In the face of mounting calls for such legal loopholes to be plugged, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor vowed to study the feasibility of bringing government-run venues under the jurisdiction of the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance, substantially raising the penalty for scalping and criminalizing the act.

We strongly urge our government officials to stop dragging their feet or passing the buck in changing the obsolete law in order to stem rampant scalping in Hong Kong and prevent scalpers from being able to escape justice over and over again.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 3

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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