Alleged ticket 'scalpers' released on bail
Updated: 2013-01-24 03:31
By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou (China Daily)
The couple who added a 10 yuan ($1.61) surcharge to the price of the train tickets they bought online to sell to migrant workers in Foshan, Guangdong province, were released on bail on Wednesday.
Zhong Quanzhen and his wife Ye Xia were detained by officials of the Zhaoqing division of the Guangzhou Railway Public Security Bureau on Jan 13 for ticket-scalping. Police found 212 train tickets, with a total face value of more than 35,400 yuan, and 213 ID cards in their store.
According to railway regulations, anyone selling train tickets who charges more than 5 yuan for each ticket is ticket-scalping.
Chen Shusong, deputy director of the Guangzhou Railway Public Security Bureau, said on a local radio program on Tuesday that ticket-scalping involving a total ticket face value of 5,000 yuan or more, or profit of 2,000 yuan or more, is a crime.
The case has stirred heated discussion in the news media and on the Internet, with many people, including lawyers and scholars, saying the couple are innocent, and with migrant workers expressing their support for the couple.
Li Xiujiao, a lawyer in Guangzhou, said the couple are not scalping tickets because they did not have any control over the source of tickets and did not target a specific group of people — neither of which has been possible since the introduction of the real-name train ticket system.
They were not reselling the tickets at a higher price but charging for their service, Li said.
Although unlicensed as an agent for selling train tickets, they were only an agent for buying tickets, which is a normal practice in a market economy, he said. The couple's store is engaged in an online retail business, courier service.
Li said their actions did not harm the management of order by the railway authorities, or those who bought tickets from them or other people buying train tickets. They helped those unable to buy train tickets and the railway authorities by relieving some of their burden in the Spring Festival travel rush, he said.
The crime of scalping train and bus tickets itself is confusing since no law defines scalping. Besides, the law the police have applied in the couple's case does not fit the criteria, Li said.
Chen, the railway security official, said he understands the concerns over the arrests, but said police are obliged to uphold the law.
"We are aware of the discussions of this case … and the fact that the couple were married only three months ago. But the police are a law enforcement agency, not a legislative body. Before the new law is issued, we can only handle the case according to the existing law.
"We were discussing with the procuratorate on a possible change in the mandatory measure, based on their actual circumstances and attitude," Chen said.
Qin Peifeng, who discussed the case with other procurators in Shanghai, holds that what the couple did amounts to illegal business operations, according to the local news portal dayoo.com. If such practices are repeated by many others or mistakes occur, social problems will arise, Qin said.
Li disagreed, saying the couple were merely an agent for buying tickets and bought tickets like any other individuals, and their computer is not linked to the railway ticket system.
Li is not acting as the couple's lawyer, but in a similar case he handled in 2010, in which the defendant added a 50 yuan surcharge to tickets he resold and made a profit of more than 2,000 yuan, the police withdrew the case.
Many people are convicted of ticket scalping across the country every year, Li said, calling for public attention to the matter.
Spring Festival, the most important Chinese holiday, falls on Feb 10, and most Chinese people head home for family reunions.
The Ministry of Railways forecasts more than 220 million trips by train will be made during the holiday travel rush from Jan 26 to March 6.
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