Scalping of iPhones is a huge problem in both mainland China and Hong Kong. Scalpers, who will buy the iPhones at stores and then resell them at inflated prices, have exploited both the online and brick-and-mortar availability of the iPhone 4 and 4S and prevented non-scalping customers from having easy access to the devices. The overwhelming prevalence of scalpers in line at the iPhone 4S launch in China caused Apple to scrub the launch at its Beijing store, and the scalpers nearly rioted.
According to Electronista, Apple has apparently had enough of the situation and has instituted measures to combat these scalpers. Earlier this month, Apple suspended in-store sales of the iPhone 4S throughout mainland China, and that policy has been expanded to Hong Kong.
Apple's online Hong Kong store has instituted a lottery system designed to prevent scalpers from using automated services to make online reservations. Prospective buyers have only a three-hour window to enter the lottery; winners are notified later in the day and required to pick up the reserved iPhone the next day. Stricter identification standards are in force, including a requirement for a government-issued photo ID.
Time will tell if this will thwart scalpers and give everyone else fair and easy access to iPhones in China and Hong Kong. It's a fair bet that the scalpers are already looking for ways to defeat or exploit the lottery system.