HONG KONG -- As Hong Kong prepares for a global summit about free trade next week, the government is starting to worry that commerce is a little too free.
The authorities are cracking down on vendors selling fake goods at markets where shoppers can pick up a Louis Vuitton handbag, Rolex watch, or Hermes tie -- all for just a fraction of what the real one would cost.
The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department is stepping up efforts against counterfeits in response to an expected influx of tourists coming in town during the World Trade Organization summit on Dec. 13-18 and the holiday season.
The objective is to prevent counterfeit vendors from disturbing the tourists, he said.
A team of 108 people has been created to step up anti-counterfeit measures for the global summit, said Samson Chiu, a divisional commander of the intellectual property investigation bureau of the Hong Kong Customs Department. The team will continue until after the WTO meeting and will be reviewed afterward. If the counterfeit sales people have been suppressed, the special action team might not be needed in the future, he said.
The piracy fight is serious business for officials in Hong Kong. And such assurances help set Hong Kong apart from cities across the border in mainland China, where counterfeiting is rampant.
In 2004, tourists spent about $11.85 billion in Hong Kong, and approximately 56 percent of their spending was on shopping, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
''We have to upkeep the image of a shopping paradise for genuine goods, so we will step up our enforcement measures against these counterfeit goods," Chiu said.