Trouble halts Apple China store sales

Friday 13 January 2012 08.56
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Crowds queued for hours outside Apple stores
Crowds queued for hours outside Apple stores
Chinese iPhone 4S demand "incredible"
Chinese iPhone 4S demand "incredible"
Scuffles with security guards outside Apple store in Beijing
Scuffles with security guards outside Apple store in Beijing

Apple is suspending sales of the iPhone at its China stores after fans desperate to get their hands on the new model fought with a security guard and threw eggs at an official store.

Police detained at least two people outside the Beijing shop today when angry crowds who had queued for hours in freezing temperatures for the Chinese launch of the iPhone 4S scuffled with security after being refused entry.

An AFP reporter outside the store in Beijing's upmarket Sanlitun district saw frustrated shoppers attack a security guard after police with megaphones shouted at the 1,000-strong crowd to go home and said the iPhone would not go on sale.

Apple said its other mainland China stores - one in Beijing and three in Shanghai - had sold out of the new device within hours of the launch. "The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible," said spokeswoman Carolyn Wu.

"Unfortunately we were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd, and to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, iPhones will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being," she said.

Some of the 1,000 or so people gathered outside the Sanlitun store from the early hours told AFP they had been paid 100 yuan (around $15) each by touts to stand in line and wait for the doors to open.

Greater China - which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan - has become Apple's fastest growing region, with revenue there second only to the United States.

The California-based company has recently expanded aggressively in China, opening its first store in Hong Kong and its third in Shanghai last September, which brings the total to six in Greater China.

But Apple's popularity has also brought problems, with widespread counterfeiting and illegal smuggling of its products.

In July, an American blogger uncovered fake Apple stores in the southwestern city of Kunming, where even staff working there did not appear to know they were fake.