Sunday, 28 May 2017

Hong Kong's Backward Ways

Some of the Uber cars that were impounded during a undercover operation
Earlier this week the Hong Kong police swooped down and arrested 22 Uber drivers for allegedly not having a hire car permit or third party insurance. Apparently it was the biggest raid of its kind, a three-week undercover operation.

It seems the government is intent on shutting the app-driven car service that offers clean vehicles, polite drivers and rides at a decent cost.

What happened to Hong Kong's hallmark of fair competition?

The taxi associations are threatened by Uber and claim they will improve drivers' service, help them learn more English and so on.

Hong Kong taxi associations wield a lot of political power
But that doesn't help replace the old vehicles they have with seats that sink a foot down as soon as you sit down, the smell of cigarette smoke and drivers looking like they just rolled out of bed five minutes before they picked you up.

It also doesn't fix the problem of them refusing cab fare because they will only roll down their window and ask where you're going -- this is illegal, but having to take down their license plate and driver name is too much of a hassle to bother to register with the police so you just give up and try to find another taxi.

There's also the issue of them not being available around 4pm, when they universally disappear because it's time to change drivers. Can't this exchange be staggered? It's outrageous and outdated.

And why not pay by credit card or Octopus at least? Again not with the times and doesn't work for the rest of us who are trying to keep up with Hong Kong's fast pace.

But the public likes the services Uber provides
Yet Hong Kong's taxi drivers refuse to move with the times. And the government is enabling them to stay the way they are.

That's because they have 42 taxi associations, 28 of which are in Hong Kong and Kowloon, the rest in the New Territories. They also have a big say when it comes to choosing the chief executive. So you can imagine the candidates wanted to make sure he or she got their vote...

Meanwhile the government likes to brand the city as supporting start-ups and especially ones that involve technology. Doesn't Uber fit the bill?

And yet authorities seem intent on suppressing the transport service that the public is demanding and for the most part enjoying. How ironic is that? People can place an order via their smartphone, pay remotely and even rate their driver.

How would Hong Kong taxi drivers fare if the same was done to them?

There's enough demand for hired car services since taxi driver seem to reject many potential customers. And this encourages people to work part time for extra money, thus stimulating the local economy.

So what's the problem?

We can only guess...


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