InvestHK, the government vehicle designed to attract foreign investment, introduced car-hailing app Uber into Hong Kong in 2014. But Uber’s expansion in the city has been stalled after police raids on the company’s offices and arrest of a number of drivers.
Pushing for the legalization of such sharing economy activities has been a major focus of the technology sector.
In her maiden policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor touched upon this issue.
She said these sharing economy models have already thrived in mainland Chinese cities, and spurred much new economic activity.
Lam said the newly established Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Unit will actively review related policies and regulations together with various policy bureaus in order to facilitate the development of such new economy industries.
Hong Kong has long been criticized that its regulations have lagged far behind technology development.
Although the sharing economy has many disruptive innovations, which may fall into gray areas legally, it has won approval from investors and is considered to have huge profit and growth potential.
Hong Kong cannot afford to push away such companies and miss the opportunities. Otherwise, we will lose out to our rivals in technology development and competitiveness.
It is never too late to redress the problem. As long as the Hong Kong government adopts an open and tolerant stance and carries out constructive dialogue with sharing economy companies and balances their interests with existing players, there is a good chance Hong Kong can achieve notable progress.
Entities involved in the sharing economy need to be regulated to ensure their services are up to standard, but at the same time the administration also needs to change its mindset and be more open to new opportunities.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 20
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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