Hong Kong bus unions started a collective action on Sunday in response to recent police prosecutions against bus drivers who did not pull up to their designated stop areas when loading or unloading passengers.
Beginning Sunday evening, bus drivers will not let passengers alight or embark until they can park at their exact stop areas.
The idea for the protest was triggered after three bus drivers belonging to three different companies – Kowloon Motor Bus, Citybus and New World First Bus – were given traffic tickets on Sunday morning for not stopping at the designated areas.
The Kowloon Motor Bus union leader said the bus drivers would need to pay for the tickets out of their own pockets.
The unions of the three bus companies – under the Confederation of Trade Unions – said in a statement on Sunday that bus drivers were forced to stop outside the designated zones because cars were illegally parked at those areas.
They criticised police and the Transport Department for passing the buck to each other rather than addressing the root of the problem.
“Regretfully, the authorities did not proactively respond to the issue,” the unions said. “We urge our colleagues to comply with the traffic regulations by stopping at the correct locations in order to protect their rights.”
Some bus drivers put up notices at stops on Sunday informing passengers of the collective action. They apologised for the inconvenience caused.
“Because of the complaint of a pro-establishment lawmaker, bus drivers were prosecuted for not parking at the correct area,” the notice said.
“If passengers would like to file a complaint, please contact the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) [Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party].”
Besides illegally parked vehicles, bus drivers also cited pressure from impatient passengers and fear of traffic congestion.
Independent Wan Chai District Councilor Yolanda Ng was reported to be the one who complained during a meeting last week with the Transport Department. She denied having asked the authorities to prosecute bus drivers.
“I did not complain about bus drivers to the Transport Department, bus companies or police, nor did I ask police to prosecute bus drivers,” she said. “My suggestions mainly targeted illegally parked cars.”
But an audio recording of the meeting revealed that Ng said bus companies should share the responsibility.
She said: “Speaking of public safety, bus companies are also responsible. If bus drivers insist on stopping at their designated areas, people will not be forced to cross two or three lanes to board the bus. Can the Transport Department do something about it?”
After the recording was posted on social media, Ng admitted having said that bus drivers should stop at the correct locations. But she emphasised that she did not mean to target bus drivers and acknowledged the inconvenience caused to them.
The Kowloon Motor Bus union leader threatened to continue with the action until Ng makes an official public apology. Ng did not directly respond to the demand.
Ng is the director of an e-commerce company, according to a form she submitted to the Wan Chai District Council. Her company has conducted polls for the DAB and organisations with ties to the Chinese government.
Several taxi drivers were given traffic tickets on Monday after pulling up to a bus stop outside Jardine House, Central.
A taxi driver told Apple Daily it was unfortunate that he got a ticket, as it was a common spot for non-bus drivers to park.
According to local media, traffic on Monday morning was generally smooth. But some said on social media that traffic congestion in the Western District was so bad due to the collective action that some passengers decided to walk towards Sheung Wan.
Others reported congestion in Mong Kok and near the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.
Online responses to the collective action were mostly positive, with people criticising the drivers of taxis, minibuses and other cars that illegally occupy bus stops. They also accused police officers of selectively enforcing the law by not punishing taxi drivers and minibus drivers.
But not everyone was pleased with the action. A video posted on social media shows some people shouting at a bus driver for refusing to let passengers embark until a tour bus illegally occupying a bus stop departed. The incident took place on Morrison Hill Road.