Police arrested 21 drivers working for Uber in sting operations against the car-hailing firm.
They were being detained on suspicion of doing business without a hire-car permit and third-party insurance, public broadcaster RTHK reports.
Police said 20 men and one woman, aged 21 to 59, were found charging HK$50 to HK$150 per trip. They have been registered with Uber for a few days to several years, the report said.
Chief Inspector Edwin Lau from the West Kowloon traffic unit said the suspects were arrested by police officers who posed as customers.
The drivers have to provide valid documents to the police within five days to prove they are innocent, Lau said.
“We sent the decoys in many trips,” Lau was quoted as saying. “Eventually we collected all the evidence and turned the operation to light.”
Uber said in a statement it was extremely disappointed with the arrests of its “driver partners” and maintained that its operation in the city complies with all relevant ordinances.
The San Francisco, California-based company said it “has a ridesharing insurance policy that complies with all relevant legal requirements in Hong Kong, including the Hong Kong Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Ordinance (the ‘Ordinance’)”.
The group policy applies to all ride-sharing trips in Hong Kong and covers liability to riders or third parties up to HK$100 million each trip, the same coverage and limits required by the ordinance, it added.
It promised to provide legal support and other forms of assistance to the drivers and their families.
“Ridesharing should not be a crime. Hong Kong is an international city known for its embrace of global economic trends and new technologies, but current transportation regulations have failed to keep up with innovation,” it said.
In March the West Kowloon Court fined five Uber drivers HK$10,000 each after they were found guilty of driving vehicles for hire without permits and third-party insurance, RTHK said.
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