Hong Kong approves demerit point system to stamp out bad behaviour by taxi drivers, but lawmakers question enforcement and urge use of existing laws


Under the system, taxi drivers will be given demerit points for 11 types of behaviour and face being disqualified from driving their cabs if they accumulate too many.

Lawmaker Doreen Kong says the government is duplicating existing laws. Photo: Edmond So

The bill was passed with the support of 68 lawmakers, while three opposed it and 13 abstained from the vote. Lam said the scheduled launch date of the system would allow sufficient time for authorities and the industry to prepare.

A driver in his 60s surnamed Kam called the demerit points system “unreasonable” and argued it had many grey areas that could give rise to disputes.

“If the route I take doesn’t meet their preferences, they may accuse me of taking a detour,” Kam said.

Another driver surnamed Wong expressed similar concerns, but agreed with some parts of the new system, such as penalties for overcharging.

But cabbies could have many reasons for refusing to pick up passengers, he said. A driver who was about to finish his shift might decline to take a passenger who needed to travel far, he noted.

Lawmaker Doreen Kong Yuk-foon, who voted against the bill, accused the government of duplicating existing laws, pointing out the Road Traffic Ordinance already covered 24 related offences, with some leading to a maximum penalty of six months in jail.

“The reason behind years of failure to correct the behaviour of ‘black sheep’ is not that we do not have relevant laws, but that we lack the determination and strength to continuously crack down, as well as law enforcement,” Kong said during the meeting.

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“The poorly behaved taxis at Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Garden Road [in Central] have become a part of Hong Kong. Have we ever truly put our efforts into cracking down on these taxis?”

Cabbies will receive three, five or 10 demerit points for violating any of the 11 offences. Overcharging and wilfully refusing or neglecting to accept a hire will result in 10 points. Five and three points will be given for acts such as using a route other than the most direct one and refusing to carry the number of passengers requested, provided the total is within the vehicle’s capacity.

Cabbies who accumulate 15 points or more within two years may be disqualified from operating a taxi for three months. A six-month suspension will be imposed on repeat offenders.

Transport sector lawmaker Frankie Yick voted against the bill, saying it was unnecessary. Photo: Edmond So

Lawmaker Chan Siu-hung said he supported the scheme as poorly behaved taxis affected the city’s image. But he agreed that collecting and providing proof of offences would be a challenge, and suggested the government install surveillance cameras inside vehicles.

“We can take reference from Macau,” Chan said. “The government can install cameras connected to a cloud data system in taxis. All videos will be stored in the cloud data system, which the government runs.”

He said police could retrieve videos in cases where disputes arose.

Lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming, who represents the transport sector, also voted against the scheme, saying it was unnecessary as long as laws were strictly applied and offending drivers faced legal repercussions.

Hong Kong proposes slapping taxi drivers with demerit points for bad behaviour

“The court seldom imposes the maximum penalty and the matter is often settled with a few thousand dollars, which has no deterrent effect at all,” he said, adding that a number of drivers were willing to take risks for higher profit.

“The industry believes that heavy penalties should be given to drivers who overcharge or alter taxi meters. Once found guilty, they should be barred from driving taxis permanently.”

Responding to the lawmakers’ concerns, Lam said drivers would be given demerit points only after police had collected evidence, investigated the matter and a court had handed down a conviction.

Legco passed another bill a day earlier to introduce premium taxi fleets, six-seater cabs, stricter penalties for drivers who provided illegal ride-hailing services and a two-tier penalty system for four taxi-related offences.

Lam said authorities would require premium taxi fleets to install surveillance cameras inside their vehicles, as well as consider extending the requirement to all cabs and consulting the industry next year.

Additional reporting by Peter Guo



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