Apple pulls iPhone from China shelves over riot fears

  • @cliffordcoonan

Angry Chinese shoppers threw eggs at Apple's flagship store in Beijing and scuffled with police after being told the group's latest smartphone would not go on sale as promised over concerns that the crowd would riot.

Despite freezing temperatures, hundreds of Apple enthusiasts queued up to be the first to get the new iPhone 4S. Because of various regulatory issues, the iPhone came late to China, but consumers have taken slick Apple products to their hearts with the company selling 5.6 million iPhones in China in the first nine months of last year.

Such was the concern the crowd could get out of hand, Apple delayed sales of the new phone in both its Chinese outlets, although gadget lovers could still order one online. Some of those queuing were scalpers who buy the phones to sell on at a profit.

When an Apple rep announced at 7am that the phones would not be sold as planned, the crowd erupted, chanting "Liars" and demanding that staff opened the doors. Shoppers scuffled with police and one man threw eggs at the building.

China is Apple's fastest-growing market and sales there more than quadrupled last year to £8.5bn from £1.96bn.

A spokesman said: "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, the iPhone will not be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being."

The company said it knew nothing of scalpers in the crowd, but those outside said the group cared little because of the huge demand for its products. In May, the Sanlitun store was shut for a couple of hours after a scuffle during the launch of the iPad 2.