Hong Kong leader CY Leung’s tech advisor backtracks from pro-Uber comments in wake of police raid

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 7:23pm

An advisor to Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying on innovation and technology issues has walked backed comments praising Uber's business model after police in the city raided the taxi-hailing app last week.

Speaking at an event held by Junior Chamber International Hong Kong on Sunday, Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung praised Uber's business model as "truly innovative".

Yang's remarks came five days after Hong Kong police arrested seven Uber drivers in a sting operation for not possessing correct permits. The company's offices in the city were also raided, and several staff detained.

READ MORE: Uber exec hopes for 'smart regulation' of Hong Kong sharing economy following police raid

On Monday, the government released a statement on behalf of Yang "clarifying" his remarks over the weekend.

"[Yang] stressed the need for creative industries to fulfil their social responsibilities, including the conduct of their business in compliance with the relevant local laws," the statement said.

In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Sam Gellman, who heads Uber's operations in the city, said he was willing to sit down with the authorities at any time and called for "smart regulation" of the sharing economy.

Yang is widely tipped to head the government's planned innovation and technology bureau.

Leung has called for lawmakers to approve HK$25 million in start-up funding for the bureau, and cover staff costs of HK$35 million. But at the final hearing of the Legislative Council's finance committee before the summer break, the item was never discussed.

The chief executive blamed pan-democrats, accusing them of filibustering and turning a blind eye to "the government's sincerity" on the issue, despite records showing that 26 of the 33 lawmakers who spoke during the meeting were from the pro-establishment camp.