Several pro-establishment lawmakers have proposed suggestions to improve the city’s taxi services, such as by installing security cameras inside the vehicles.
“The problem with Hong Kong’s taxi industry is not that there are not enough taxis, but that their service quality is not good enough – this is the general public sentiment,” transport sector lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming said at a media session on Thursday.
“The number of taxi users has been on the decline over the last 20 years, from around 1.3 million a day in 1997 to just over 900,000 a day at present. With a shrinking market, taxi operators will only face ever-increasing difficulty in their business,” he said.
“Therefore, the government should work on ensuring good taxi services.”
A suggestion is to include the topics of customer service and driving attitude in written exams for taxi drivers. The lawmakers also proposed a rating scheme with harsh penalties, such as the termination of licenses.
They also want to install security cameras inside the cars to monitor the conduct of drivers.
It is not the first time the idea has come up. The Association of Taxi Industry Development last year proposed installing CCTV cameras in taxis to curb the poor behaviour of some drivers.
But Andrew Shum of watchdog Civil Rights Observer warned that introducing security cameras may not be a proportionate means of achieving the goal to improve customer service. “This may cross the line of the right to privacy,” he said.
He added that taxis are different from other public transport such as the MTR in that passengers expect a certain level of privacy. “It is also less possible to record conversations taking place in the MTR.”
“While it may be said that we should expect to be filmed in public space, it is a different matter to be subjected to constant surveillance,” Shum said.
“There is generally a lack of public discussion on mass surveillance. Society seems to think that installing CCTV cameras can solve everything relating to public order and crime, but they overlook costs such as the excessive collection of personal data.”
The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data laid down six data protection principles. One of them states that information collected should be necessary but not excessive.
Other principles include ensuring that the data will not be kept longer than is necessary to fulfil the purpose it is collected for. The lawmakers who put forward the proposal on Thursday did not elaborate on the details of implementation.
Besides Frankie Yick, pro-Beijing lawmakers such as Junius Ho, Priscilla Leung and Edward Lau Kwok-fan, as well as a taxi union leader, also attended Thursday’s media session.
The legislature’s Panel on Transport will discuss issues relating to franchised taxis on Friday.