In the larger cities of China, such as Beijing and Shanghai, scalpers are a common sight. Most of the time these people, known as ‘huangniu,’ are spotted outside sporting events, theater performances, and train stations. They buy tickets at face value or lower prices and then sell them to tourists and visitors at an increased price. Unfortunately for those needing medical attention, scalpers are also making a killing by controlling access to doctors and hospitals.
Scalping is illegal in China, but that has not prevented enterprising people from making a lucrative career from the practice. Over the last month, extra attention has been focused on these scalpers, especially those operating at hospitals. This attention is the result of a popular video that circulated on Weibo. It showed a young woman scolding scalpers outside of Guang’anmen Hospital in Beijing. She had waited two days while trying to get a registration ticket so that she could see a doctor. The registration tickets only cost $45, but the huangniu had bought them all and were selling them for $686 to the patients desperate to receive medical care.
In recent weeks the police have actually begun cracking down and arresting scalpers. One of the largest busts so far involved five suspects at the Shanghai Ruijin Hospital. Three of those arrested were security guards at the hospital who were guilty of taking bribes from the scalpers. Undercover video showed police posing as patient jump to the front of the line after paying the scalpers, who in turn bribed the security guards. In Beijing, raids on five hospitals in the Haidian district led to the arrest of eleven scalpers.
Despite the crackdown, scalpers who spoke to members of the Chinese media said that they will continue to illegally sell registration tickets for doctors’ appointments. One huangniu in Beijing described his arrangement. He’ll wait in line outside the hospital for a few hours each morning. After securing an appointment ticket, he’ll turn around and sell it to someone arriving to the hospital later in the day, or someone coming to the city from the countryside who doesn’t have the necessary identification card to make an appointment. For only a few hours of work each day, the man earns almost $1100 per month, nearly three times what he made as a welder in his rural hometown. With so much money available to scalpers, and fear of police raids minimal despite recent activity, this practice is unlikely to vanish anytime soon.