Taxi groups who planned to mobilise 500 drivers to strike over Uber and other ride-hailing services on Wednesday have had their plans thwarted, after an operator refused to lend out a carpark for the protest.

Urban taxi waiting in line in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Urban taxi waiting in line in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

17 taxi groups said on Tuesday that they would stage a strike that would see hundreds of taxi drivers park their vehicles at Lam Tsuen Wishing Square in Tai Po for three hours from 11 am. The announcement came after industry leaders said they were left dissatisfied by a meeting with the government’s transport officials earlier that day.

“We do not wish to disturb the social order,” Wong Yu-ting, chairperson of Hong Kong Tele-call Taxi Association and who attended the meeting, told reporters afterwards in Cantonese. “That’s why we choose non-rush hour… we hope to exert pressure on the government peacefully.”

But local media reported on Tuesday evening that the group responsible for managing the Lam Tsuen Wishing Square had refused to lend out the venue for the planned strike, as its chairperson said they had not anticipated the involvement of 500 taxis.

Cheng Lun-kwong, the chairperson of Lam Tsuen Wishing Square, told Commercial Radio that the scale of the industrial action exceeded their initial expectations. Cheng said he had already informed the taxi groups regarding their decision not to lend out the parking lot.

The Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree in Lam Tsuen, Tai Po. Photo: Wikicommons.
The Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree in Lam Tsuen, Tai Po. Photo: Wikicommons.

He added that the wishing square was government-owned property and that the taxi groups had not provided a letter of no objection issued by the police – a requirement for organising protests under the city’s law.

Cheng also said that residents were concerned about whether the proposed strike would cause severe traffic congestion, according to HK01.

“We are uncertain [about Wednesday’s strike] and we are still negotiating,” Wong told HKFP in Cantonese on Tuesday afternoon. He added that the industry does not want to “cause trouble” to the venue operator.

Later that evening, the taxi groups said in a statement to media outlets that they had called off their proposed strike “due to time constraints.”

Taxi demands

Plans for the Wednesday strike were sparked by the taxi drivers’ dissatisfaction regarding what they described as “a lack of government action” in regulating ride-hailing services such as Uber. While such services are illegal in Hong Kong, there have not been any large-scale crackdowns on Uber drivers or passengers.

New Territories taxi. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
New Territories taxi. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The representatives demanded that authorities “immediately stamp out” unlicensed ride-hailing services during the meeting with officials on Tuesday.

But the demand was met with lukewarm reactions from the officials, Wong told HKFP on Tuesday.

Wong warned after the meeting that the taxi groups could escalate their industrial action if the authorities do not take prompt action against the rival services “within one to two weeks.”

The Transport and Logistics Bureau issued a Chinese-language statement on Tuesday evening urging the groups to put the public’s interest first and tackle the issue in a rational and pragmatic manner.

The front page of the Uber app on a smart phone. Photo: HKFP.
The front page of the Uber app on a smart phone. Photo: HKFP.

The authorities had reiterated to industry leaders during the meeting that the government would continue taking action against illegal ride-hailing services, according to the statement.

In July, the government proposed increasing the penalty for “illegal carriage of passengers for hire or reward by motor vehicles,” which would strengthen enforcement of ride-hailing services. Authorities would seek to speed up the relevant legislation process, the statement added.

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Hans Tse is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in local politics, academia, and media transformation. He was previously a social science researcher, with writing published in the Social Movement Studies and Social Transformation of Chinese Societies journals. He holds an M.Phil in communication from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Before joining HKFP, He also worked as a freelance reporter for Initium between 2019 and 2021, where he covered the height - and aftermath - of the 2019 protests, as well as the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.