(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong taxi drivers have canceled an earlier plan to strike on Wednesday to protest the government’s unwillingness to crack down on ride-hailing services like Uber Technologies Inc.
The decision was made after Hong Kong authorities expressed willingness to review regulation on curbing illegal online hailing services, according to Wong Yu Ting, chairman of one of the associations that had planned to participate in the strike. The government has agreed to meet with taxi drivers for further communication, Wong said.
About 500 Hong Kong taxis were expected to be used for the now-canceled strike, with drivers not taking customers from 11 a.m. local time for three hours. The small number of vehicles and the location in Taipo area, far from Hong Kong’s bustling center, was seen as unlikely to cause major disruptions.
The government will “step up efforts” to combat illegal use of motor vehicles for carriage of passengers, according to a press release late Tuesday. Authorities will maintain close communication with the industry to tackle the issue, it said.
Uber has a complicated presence in Hong Kong. Officially, it’s illegal but it’s grown to about 14,000 driver partners since launching in 2014. In 2021, it acquired the HKTaxi app — a popular platform used to hire cabs — and it also offers Uber Taxi, which allows people to book a ride with a taxi-driver partner through the firm’s own app.
Its growing popularity has made it a frequent target of the Hong Kong taxi industry, which has estimated Uber costs it more than HK$20 million ($2.6 million) in revenue each day, creates unfair competition and hurts the recruitment of new drivers. Taxi drivers previously went on strike in 2018, but the lack of definitive action from the government to back an outright ban on ride-hailing apps since then has been the source of ongoing tensions.
Hong Kong’s iconic red taxis are a common sight on the busy streets of the financial district, but have been the focus of growing safety concerns after a spate of accidents involving elderly drivers. In January this year, one 87-year-old driver was involved in three accidents in just nine days.
About 55% of the more than 200,000 people who hold a full valid license for driving a taxi are aged 60 or older, according to government data. The actual number of active drivers is about 46,000, and there are about 18,000 taxis in the city. Last year, almost half of taxi traffic accidents involved drivers aged 60 or older.
The taxi industry is also viewed as old fashioned, as many cabs don’t accept credit cards or e-payment systems. There is currently one way around that though: Uber-owned HKTaxi allows users to pay in-app with a credit card.
--With assistance from Hallie Gu and Jinshan Hong.
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