Protesting taxi drivers' sentences suspended
Ten taxi drivers who blocked access roads at the airport to protest against a new fare system rejoiced yesterday as an appeal judge converted their jail terms into suspended sentences.
The drivers, aged 40 to 60, had been ordered by Tsuen Wan Court to serve jail terms of seven weeks to two months after they pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance.
They were given sentences of the same duration suspended for 18 months at the Court of Appeal. Deputy Judge Andrew Chan Hing-wai also fined them HK$5,000 each yesterday.
At 9pm on December 3, 2008, six of the defendants, drivers of green New Territories taxis, stopped on the North Lantau Highway's Kowloon-bound lanes. Later, four red urban taxi drivers blocked the airport-bound lanes.
Almost 200 green taxi drivers joined them on the highway and blocked airport taxi stands causing services to be suspended. Normal traffic resumed five hours later.
The judge said that since the protest the drivers and their families had suffered financially and psychologically. He said they had spent two weeks behind bars and this had already been strong admonishment.
He noted that apart from the drivers not seeking permission for their activity, there was nothing wrong with their protest.
The drivers left court smiling with family and friends.
Speaking for some of the drivers, Lam Kwai-keung, the chairman of the Front Line Taxi Driver Association, welcomed the ruling. 'The judge has given us justice.'
The drivers protested after the Transport Department introduced a new fare system for red taxis before green taxis. The drivers also accused airport staff of telling passengers that red taxis were cheaper than green taxis for long trips.
A scheme that brought the green taxi fare system in line with red taxis was introduced a month later.