Scuffle at Apple store phone launch in Beijing

BEIJING (AP) — A fight broke out between an employee and a customer at an Apple store in China’s capital amid a frenzy to buy the newly launched white iPhone 4, a witness said.

Thirty-year-old Wang Ming said Saturday’s scuffle at the Apple store in Beijing’s Sanlitun district was between a “foreign” Apple staffer and a Chinese customer.

An Apple spokeswoman in China, Carolyn Wu, said the store “was closed for several hours on Saturday after a group outside the store became unruly.”

“The store team acted to protect themselves and our customers by closing the doors and preventing the group from entering,” Wu told The Associated Press on Monday. “The safety of our customers and employees is our top priority.” She would not provide more details.

Customers shop inside Apple's Sanlitun retail store in Beijing Sunday. Pic: AP.

Reports on some Chinese news websites said three or four customers were injured. Wang said he had walked out of the store and was passing by the scuffle when a bottle hit his head, causing a gash.

Demand for the iPhone and iPad in China has been high. There have been problems in the past of scalpers buying up iPhones to resell at higher prices.

In January, Apple reported holiday-quarter results showing that of Apple’s 321 stores worldwide, on average those in China clocked the highest traffic and revenue per store. Most of the revenue came from iPhone and iPad sales.

The Cupertino, California-based company said then that the quarterly revenue from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan totaled $2.6 billion, about 10 percent of its total revenue and four times the year-earlier figure.