Taxi Drivers Stage Sit-in Over Licensing Rules in China's Henan

china-taxi-uber-aug-2016-1000.jpg A taxi passes by an Uber station outside a shopping mall in Beijing, Aug. 1, 2016.

Hundreds of unregistered taxi drivers staged a second day of sit-ins outside government offices in the central Chinese province of Henan on Tuesday over new rules requiring them to register with a taxi company.

The drivers gathered to present a petition to municipal authorities in Nanyang city after new regulations were introduced forcing them to change their car's ownership papers to the name of a company if they wished to continue operating.

"The vehicle licenses were in our personal names, but now the government says we have to remove our individual names and put a company name instead," a protester surnamed Sun told RFA as the sit-in entered its second day on Tuesday.

"We bought these cars with our own money, and we paid the taxes on them," Sun said. "If we remove our names then ... we will have no way of proving that this is our property."

"So we have come to petition for our property rights and for the right to operate," he said.

A driver surnamed Guo said he has already spent hundreds of thousands of yuan (100,000 yuan = U.S. $14,520) on his taxi.

"I paid out several hundred thousand yuan to buy the right to operate, and yet they won't be compensating me for that money," Guo said. "These drivers are the main breadwinners for their families."

"They have paid out between 300,000 and 600,000 yuan (U.S. $43,560 and $87,115), and still they aren't qualified to operate," he said.

Some 1,100 drivers, many of whom started offering private taxi services after being laid off from their jobs or losing their farmland, are believed to be affected by the new rules.

They say that 2,000 more family members will also be cut off from their main source of income.

Calls to the Nanyang municipal department of transportation rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

"We are still here today," a driver surnamed Yang told RFA. "The government wants to take away our property rights, and we are calling on the government to give our operating licenses back."

He said government officials were meeting with driver delegates on Tuesday.

"Our entire right to operate stems from those licenses," Guo said. "We are saying that our right to operate should be ours as individuals; that's how it works everywhere else in the country."

"I don't know what the government is thinking."

Ride-hailing rules

China legalized taxi-hailing apps like Uber and Didi Chuxing on Nov. 1, after they attracted tens of millions of Chinese customers annually.

However, in an apparent concession to the traditional taxi industry, the government placed additional restrictions on drivers and the vehicles used.

The new rules required online ride-hailing platforms to sign labor contracts with drivers, following violent clashes in the eastern city of Nanjing last June between traditional cab drivers and those signing up to drive for the ride-hailing apps.

The tighter employment rules struck at the heart of the ride-hailing business model, which allowed an army of Chinese car-owners to moonlight as Uber and Didi drivers in their spare time.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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