Hong Kong police inspected the office of a transportation service provider following arrests of five drivers on charges of operating illegal hire car services.

Police first inspected Uber’s office in Cheung Sha Wan at around 2pm. Later in the evening, inspectors took away computers and documents from Uber’s office. They also invited three staff to the police station to assist in the investigation.

Earlier in the day, local media reported that undercover agents used a mobile application to employ hire car services. Five drivers, who are also owners of the vehicles, were arrested.

Police inspected Uber Hong Kong office
Police inspected Uber Hong Kong’s office.

Police officers used the mobile app to hire cars from five different places to go to Perth Street in Ho Man Tin. Officers revealed their identities and arrested the drivers on arrival of the destination.

Traffic chief inspector Bruce Hung Hin-kau said that the arrested drivers, aged 28 to 65, were charged with carrying passengers illegally for reward and not having third party risks insurance.

The drivers worked for an international group which has been operating in Hong Kong for over a year, Hung added. He said that the undercover agents paid by credit cards after the trips, Hung added.

Police arrested five drivers and with withheld five cars this morning
Police arrested five drivers and withheld five cars .

Uber is a transportation company that provides services similar to metered taxis. Users submit trip requests through a mobile app developed by the company, after which its drivers provide the service with their own vehicles. Uber sets up independent contracts with local drivers to provide the service.

Hong Kong taxi drivers have criticised unlicensed drivers and mobile taxi-hailing apps for skirting the law and creating “unfair competition,” urging the Hong Kong government to impose regulations on the for-hire car industry. However, some people have blamed taxi drivers’ unsatisfactory services for the rise of alternative hire care services.

By law, vehicles for hire must obtain a hire car permit from the government. Violation of the law may result in a fine of HK$5,000 and imprisonment of three months on the first conviction, and a fine of HK$10,000 and to imprisonment of six months on the second conviction.

Update (19:28): Uber spokesperson Harold Li tells HKFP, “Uber ensures that all rides are covered by insurance, and all drivers on the platform undergo an extensive background check. We welcome the opportunity to work closely with the authorities towards updated regulations that put the safety and interests of riders and drivers first.”

Image via Facebook / Apple Daily.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.