Surge of support for Uber as Hongkongers post messages in favour of ride-hailing app following drivers’ arrests
Users in city post nearly 12,000 comments on webpage launched by company as part of online campaign to gain support
Ride-hailing app Uber has received nearly 12,000 submissions from the Hong Kong public as part of its online campaign to garner support after police arrested 22 of its drivers for various offences last month.
Uber drivers were arrested on suspicion of driving without a hire car permit and third-party insurance in a three-week undercover operation that ended with a series of raids across the city on May 23.
The company then launched the “IChooseUber” webpage last Wednesday where thousands of its customers posted positive comments. Most shared their experiences using the service, while others took swipes at the taxi trade and government.
“I live in the [North West] New Territories and have been refused many times to be taken by taxis,” Uber customer Stefanie Willis said on the webpage.
“There is a clear demand for Uber in Hong Kong and the government needs to listen to its people and address their needs.”
Uber Hong Kong general manager Kenneth She said he was “blown away by the level of support”. “This means riders are looking for the choice to move around the city the way they want, and driver-partners are hoping for the choice to earn extra income on their own terms,” he said.
The company is ready to meet the government to find a way to legalise and regulate the trade, She added.
But Taxi Dealers and Owners Association chairman Ng Kwan-sing said it was unfair to support Uber simply because of “a few” bad drivers in the industry as taxi operators were also victims of government inaction.
“For years we have tried to revamp our services – whether it’s introducing higher-end vehicles or rolling out fleet management. But there were too many restrictions and every time we were put off [from making those changes],” he said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai, who sits on the transport panel, said the government’s lack of action in finding legal and regulatory remedies to allow Uber to operate in Hong Kong showed it was not ready to deal with the “shared economy”.
Information technology sector lawmaker Charles Mok said the city had become “the laughing stock of the whole world” because the government decided to “stay in the Stone Age” and not embrace new technology and business models.
“It shows there is great dissatisfaction with the taxi trade and ... the government cannot simply bury its head in the sand,” he said.
A Transport Department spokeswoman said the government was ready to engage with Uber.
“If Uber intends to operate the hire-car service in Hong Kong, the Transport Department stands ready to provide the relevant information,” she said.
Additional reporting by Raymond Yeung