With Hong Kong’s evident struggle for space and high costs, the business of shared economy makes sense for a city that fights steep pricing. Where the rest of the world has embraced ride and flat-sharing platforms, it’s evident that Hong Kong is lagging behind. Co-working spaces have become the norm for young businesses and savvy entrepreneurs, and with a high demand for space in the city, it’s no wonder. When it comes to companies like Airbnb and Uber, the government has been slow to adapt, citing legislation issues. Despite the demand and the vast popularity of these services, these businesses still face the risk of being chased out of ‘Asia’s World City’.
Do a show of hands around a room, and you’ll find that every Hong Kong-er has their own version of a taxi horror story. The general accounts usually include extortionate pricing, refusal of service and tales of drivers cussing people out from the front seat. The bad press writes itself, and although they aren’t all rotten eggs, the consensus is that a little competition in this climate wouldn’t hurt. Although the dik si dai lo’s would strongly disagree and have opposed Uber, the ride-sharing app with fervour.
Yet it is with companies like Uber that good service almost comes with a guarantee, thanks to their rating system. Whereas the issues faced with taxis most certainly fall on deaf ears. Who here has even bothered to ever make a claim against a cabbie to the HK Transport Department?! We certainly wouldn’t bother…
Speaking at a press conference in October, Innovation and Technology Minister Nicholas Yang Wei-Hsiung declared that the government is “very much for the sharing economy” and praised the company GoGoVan, a for-hire van service, as a stellar example. This statement came after Chief Executive Carrie Lam praised such models and their assistance in economic growth in China. All this talk despite the government having recently gone after Uber drivers, citing that they legally didn’t obtain hire car permits or have third party insurance.
All this begs the question: Is the government doing enough to update our infrastructure as to let budding businesses grow and foster a new economy? If it’s not, can they at least attempt to regulate taxis better? We’ll let Charles Mok, the Information technology sector lawmaker sum it up for us “Hong Kong has become the laughing stock of the whole world because the government decides to stay in the Stone Age. There is great dissatisfaction with the taxi trade and the government cannot simply bury its head in the sand!” Preach!