Survey says: Hongkongers want Uber legalized

Photo: Danny Chua / Facebook
Photo: Danny Chua / Facebook

Against the backdrop of the Hong Kong taxi industry’s all-out assault on Uber, a new survey commissioned by the ride-sharing giant and conducted by the University of Hong Kong has found that (surprise!) a vast majority of respondents — 74 percent — favor legalizing the company’s services.

The survey, which interviewed by phone 515 Cantonese speakers over the age of 18, revealed that Hongkongers’s feelings towards traditional taxi companies are lukewarm. Nearly 60 percent of respondents reported feeling either neutral toward, or dissatisfied with, current taxi service options.

Nearly two-thirds, meanwhile, said that they hadn’t perceived any changes for better or worse in taxi services, with just 11 percent saying they thought service was improving.

But regardless of how they felt towards existing taxi services, a substantial majority disagreed with the government’s efforts to crack down on ride-sharing services.

Sixty percent of respondents said they believed the government should take steps to promote ride sharing, while 64 percent agreed with the statement that “regarding facilitation of ‘innovative technology,’ the government overprotects existing industries and vested interests.”

Whether the results will have any actual impact on the current push to drum the company out of town, led largely by the city’s taxi operators and supported by pro-establishment policymakers, remains to be seen.

Since it began offering services in 2014, Uber has seen its legal position in the city become increasingly tenuous. Though the company was initially welcomed with open arms by authorities, the government office that facilitated its entry into the market quietly withdrew its support

Since then, the government has periodically cracked down on drivers offering services through Uber, which is technically illegal under Hong Kong’s car-for-hire licensing laws. Meanwhile, mounting pressure from the taxi industry has prompted lawmakers to propose even stiffer penalties for drivers offering services without proper taxi licenses

Industry pressure reached a fever pitch last month when Uber announced it was partnering with a small licensed cab company on a new service, Uber Flash, that would allow users to summon either an UberX or a traditional cab through the app.

The backlash from other cab companies was so great that Uber’s partner backed out of the arrangement just hours before the service’s launch. 

Media reports citing anonymous sources later said the company’s owner had faced “serious threats to his personal safety and that of his family,” as well as warnings from his insurers that they would drop his coverage. 

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