Uber is working hard to expand its ride-hailing business throughout the world, though many new locations throw the same challenges in its path, from the scrutiny of regulators to protests by established taxi drivers.
Hong Kong is the scene of the company’s latest setback after cops this week raided its offices there and also arrested a number of its drivers, seizing their vehicles at the same time.
The sting operation, which took place on Tuesday, comes in the wake of growing complaints from the local taxi lobby about Uber’s presence in the former British-ruled territory, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. Uber has been operating there since June last year.
Five Uber drivers were detained by cops “for allegedly using a car for hire without a permit and driving without suitable insurance,” the Post said, adding that while the drivers were later released, their cars remained impounded.
The head of Hong Kong’s police traffic unit said he was confident there was “sufficient evidence” to prosecute the drivers.
At raids of two Uber offices in the territory, police arrested three people and seized computers and documents belonging to the company, with the investigation into Uber’s operation ongoing.
Uber’s North Asia spokesperson Harold Li told Reuters the company stood by its drivers “100 percent” and said, in words that’ll be very familiar to anyone who’s been following Uber’s global expansion efforts, that the company was keen to work with the authorities to create “updated regulations that put the safety and interests of riders and drivers first.”
The San Francisco-based company has been hit by protests, raids, and occasional bans in many cities around the world. Established taxi drivers accuse the company of operating without the necessary permits, with lower overheads allowing it to undercut traditional cab services. Uber, on the other hand, says it operates within existing laws and provides a popular service, as well as jobs for locals.
A recent incident at the end of last month – possibly the most alarming to date (shown above) – saw an angry crowd attack Uber drivers and vehicles with batons and stones outside Mexico City airport, with the company calling it “a very grave attack on everyone’s freedom and right to make a living in a dignified manner.”