Over 100 cab drivers rallied against a proposal to introduce luxury taxis on Tuesday as around 100 taxis encircled the legislature in protest. Transport and Housing Secretary Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said that the new option will not, and was not, meant to take customers away from traditional cabs.
Protesters congregated outside the Legislative Council in the morning prior to the Panel on Transport meeting in which the proposal was to be discussed.
The Transport Department recently submitted a document to the Council detailing plans to introduce around 450 to 600 luxury taxis as soon as 2018. The cabs will charge higher rates and differ from the traditional taxi model, which is managed through government issued-licences which can be bought and sold. Up to three companies will be in charge of 150 to 200 premium vehicles each for four to six years under the pilot scheme.
Protesters held signs saying “Retract the proposal, consult the taxi industry,” while another sign read “No-good Anthony Cheung! Collusion of the government! Transfer of benefits!”
“Some of our cars are offering quality [services]. Why can’t the government let us try first?” Ng Kwan-shing, the convenor of a federation opposed to luxury taxis, told local media. He said he hoped to converse with the government soon and said that further action would be pursued.
Cheung met with the protesters prior to the meeting and accepted a letter from them which demanded that the proposal be retracted.
Cheung said at the panel meeting that “taxi licenses now are permanent, and there are no accompanying conditions regarding service quality.” He also said that it was difficult to control the quality of the service when relevant laws have high barriers and there were over 9,000 license holders holding a total over 18,000 taxis in Hong Kong.
He also added that it would be difficult to fold existing licenses into the proposed luxury taxi model.
However, he also said that the plan was “only a preliminary measure, and is not a proposal set in stone.” He said he hoped to continue communication with the industries involved before the proposal is implemented.