Hong Kong police arrested 21 Uber drivers on Tuesday in their latest crackdown on the ride-hailing giant.

Twenty men and a woman – aged between 21 and 59 – were arrested on suspicion of carrying passengers illegally for reward and not having third-party risks insurance, a police spokesperson said. The drivers and their cars were held in custody.

Update: ‘Ridesharing should not be a crime’: Uber criticises Hong Kong’s outdated traffic laws following arrests

The arrests took place in Kowloon and southern New Territories, after the drivers failed to produce a hire car permit. They were given five days to produce documents proving they had bought third-party insurance.

The spokesperson said they could not rule out further arrests as police continue the crackdown in the coming days. The force will also investigate whether anyone incited the drivers to commit the alleged offence.

It urged Uber to respect Hong Kong law and ensure the safety of passengers.

‘Outdated law’

Tuesday’s arrests followed a series of sting operations to crack down on the city’s online car-hailing businesses.

In March, five Uber drivers were convicted of driving cars without a valid hire car permit and third party risks insurance. They were each fined HK$10,000 and their licenses were suspended for 12 months. Each said at the time that they would file an appeal.

Uber app. File Photo: freestocks.org, via Flickr.

Uber General Manager Kenneth She Chun-chi expressed disappointment at the judgement at the time, saying that it violated the interests of Hongkongers. He criticised existing traffic laws – made 40 years ago – for being “very outdated” and “backward.”

He added that the company had agreements with AIG Insurance to provide third-party coverage for all rides.

Last January, two Uber drivers were fined HK$7,000 and banned from driving for 12 months after pleading guilty to providing illegal car hires.

In August in 2015, police raided the Uber offices in Cheung Sha Wan following complaints and protests by local taxi drivers. They arrested several Uber staff and drivers, while taking away documents and computers.

Under the Road Traffic Ordinance, vehicles carrying passengers for hire must obtain a hire car permit. Offenders face a maximum penalty of a HK$5,000 fine and three months’ imprisonment on the first conviction, and a HK$10,000 fine and six months in jail on the second conviction.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.