Two Uber drivers were fined and banned from driving for 12 months after pleading guilty to providing illegal car hires at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court on Friday morning.

The court was told that the police had arrested seven drivers during a crackdown on illegal hire car services last August. They were charged with driving a motor vehicle for carriage of passengers for hire and without insurance against third party risks.

Lam Man-lok, 37, admitted the charges. He was arrested in a police sting operation last August, when undercover officers used the Uber app to hail a vehicle in Sha Tin and were given a ride in the defendant’s private car, Now TV reported.

Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court. Photo: Google Maps.

Lam said that he had learned about the Uber services provided overseas from the news and wanted to join Uber to help with the family income. He also said that he was unaware he had been committing a crime. The judge said that Uber was an online app and its services could be paid for with credit cards, indicating a certain level of organisation. Apart from his admission of guilt, there was no other mitigation factor to consider, he said.

Kwan Pui-chi, 65, also admitted the charges. He said that he had been misled by Uber into believing that there was worldwide insurance coverage, and refused to accept the legal assistance provided by the company. He said that he would bear the responsibility of the crime, as “what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong,” Ming Pao reported.

Both drivers were given a fine of HK$7,000 each, and their licences will be suspended for 12 months.

Barrister Edwin Choy, for the remaining defendants, said that he had only just received documents from the prosecution and applied to push back the date of the case. The judge adjourned the case to February 24.

Uber spokesperson Harold Li told HKFP, “We respect the individual decisions our driver-partners make with regard to their cases; we understand that the majority of the drivers intend to contest the charges in the months to come, and Uber will continue to provide needed support.”

“We also want to take this opportunity to reiterate that all Uber rides are covered by insurance. All driver-partners are required to hold third-party insurance, and, as part of our continued commitment to making sure every ride is safe and insured, Uber’s global insurance policy also provides coverage if a driver’s own vehicle insurance is exhausted or does not apply to an incident for any reason.”

Last August, police raided the Uber offices in Cheung Sha Wan, taking away documents and computers. They also cracked down on illegal car hire services and arrested several Uber staff members and drivers. The police had taken action following complaints and protests by local taxi drivers.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.