BEIJING, China — China's evolving model of authoritarian capitalism took another turn for the strange on Friday.
In Beijing, dozens of police descended on one of the cities trendiest shopping malls to quash a potential uprising, not at a demolition zone or a factory, but at the Apple store.
Hundreds of shoppers, many of them likely scalpers or hired by scalpers for a few dollars, lined up outside the Sanlitun neighborhood store overnight hoping to snap up the first of the iPhone 4S releases in China.
When the store didn't open at 7 a.m. and the phone wasn't released, those in line grew agitated.
Within half an hour, according to multiple reports, they were pelting the Apple store with eggs, shouting and descending into the first stages of what China calls a "mass incident." As with other mass incidents, hoards of police moved in with high-tech security vehicles and broke up the crowds.
By early afternoon, the Apple store at Sanlitun remained closed and empty, with signs at each door saying the iPhone 4S would not be available at the outlet.
The lines were gone, but the police didn't go away, standing guard around and throughout The Village, the retail compound where Apple's store sits at the center. The whole scene was reminiscent of what one finds after a labor strike or similar uprising in China, but was made all the more surreal by the mall setting, where afternoon shoppers went about their business.
The latest iPhone was released through Apple's other retail outlets in China. For the Sanlitun store, which was the first Apple store to open in China, this is not the only disturbance.
The store closed temporarily in May when fights broke out among those in line for a new iPad release.