Generation 40s – 四十世代

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After putting the brakes on Uber, how about cracking down on our own taxi drivers?

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-08-21

Yonden Lhatoo

Yonden Lhatoo accuses the police of adopting double standards, after the crackdown on Uber, by ignoring local cabbies who regularly flout the law

So Hong Kong is cracking down on Uber, the American car-hailing service that’s trying to make inroads into the city’s taxi business. Police have raided Uber’s office and arrested drivers accused of breaking the law by using cars to pick up passengers without the required hire permits or third-party insurance.

That’s great. Now, where’s the crackdown on our own taxi drivers?

Even as I write this, drivers across town are breaking the law all the time with impunity, and very little to nothing is being done about it. Their rudeness has always been a problem, and it’s not a crime, but refusing a hire is, and it’s out of control.

It’s pretty obvious that most Hong Kong people have had enough. That’s why there’s been such an outpouring of public sympathy for Uber.

Just look at the statistics. Last year, the number of complaints against taxi services surged above 10,000 – the first time the figure has hit five digits since the government’s Transport Complaints Unit began keeping a tally in 2003.

Nearly 2,500 of these complaints were made against drivers refusing to pick up passengers. There were also 1,577 complaints about overcharging and 1,731 reported cases of drivers not taking the most direct route.

Don’t forget these figures reflect just the tip of the iceberg. Michael Tien Puk-sun, the lawmaker who heads the Legislative Council’s transport panel, says the real numbers must be multiple times higher.

That’s because many of us feel it’s not worth the hassle to make a formal complaint. And even when we do, the process is discouragingly tiresome and bureaucratic. How are we supposed to report an offending driver’s name or identification number displayed on the dashboard when we can’t even get into his cab to take it down?

Last month, I spent nearly an hour on the streets of Causeway Bay looking for a taxi to take me home after finishing a late night at work because of Tropical Storm Linfa. That was more than two hours after the No.8 signal had been lowered, and it wasn’t even raining any more. There was no shortage of taxis either, but the problem was an all-too-familiar one: drivers cruising around looking selectively for passengers who would go far enough to spin their meters for a good profit or agree to be taken for a price-gouging ride.

I lost count of how many taxis I hailed only for each driver to slow down, rudely refuse my request to cross the harbour to Kowloon, and speed off.

It’s often assumed that entitled, belligerent expatriates who’ve had too much to drink are to blame whenever we hear of taxi drivers being assaulted by passengers, but that night I had a bit of an epiphany about where that kind of rage comes from.

Earlier this year there was a case involving a former senior civil servant accused of assaulting a taxi driver who refused to cross the harbour from Central to Kowloon late at night. My sympathies. Police later released the irate passenger unconditionally.

Among the numerous readers who’ve written to us complaining about the behaviour of taxi drivers, one rightly pointed out that, during last month’s No.8 signal, they were giving Hong Kong a bad name by blatantly extorting money from overseas visitors at the Airport Express station in Kowloon.

The reader also drew our attention to the often-heard excuse that taxi drivers’ insurance coverage lapses during extreme weather, justifying the need to charge more for the extra risk. We checked and confirmed it’s bovine faeces: insurers don’t make exceptions for typhoons.
You only have to take a look at crowded nightlife areas like Lan Kwai Fong in Central after midnight to see lines of taxis parked illegally along the streets, displaying “out of service” signs as drivers wait for passengers to fleece. Police officers on duty often turn the other way as they openly break the law.

I sense a lot of self-righteous zeal in this ongoing crackdown on Uber, both on the part of police and the powerful taxi unions that forced them to act. But this is a grey area, and whether Uber has a legal right to operate in this town is a question no one has a ready answer for.

That’s why the government’s business promotion unit, Invest HK, was initially so enthusiastic about the launch of the service, and that’s why even now we still have people like Hong Kong’s justice minister saying there’s legal room for Uber to carry on.

K.Y. Cheng [5]What’s not a grey area is the pressing need for a matching crackdown on taxi drivers; there’s no justification for the double standards the police are adopting.

I’m not holding my breath, though. Of the more than 93,000 complaints against taxi drivers over the past 11 years, only 1.6 per cent resulted in court summonses.

By the way, I did manage to get home on the night of Linfa, thanks to one taxi driver who picked me up eventually. He was a friendly chap, clucking his disapproval when I complained about his fellow drivers.

“All of us are not like that,” he told me.

I agree.

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人得多情人不老

信報財經新聞
回眸英倫
2016-04-30

毛羨寧

讀畢《周有光百年口述》, 覺得作者自敍,反而不夠陳光中先生在《走讀周有光》中記錄重點奇事有趣,尤其是有關周有光與張允和之間的愛情。「我跟她從做朋友到戀愛到結婚,可以說是很自然,也很巧,起初都在蘇州,我到上海讀書,她後來也到上海讀書。後來更巧的是我到杭州,她也到杭州。常在一起,慢慢地、慢慢地自然地發展,不是像現在『衝擊式』的戀愛,我們是『流水式』的戀愛,不是大風大浪的戀愛。」周有光只寫了一章來交代。

胡適做媒人

我想起從前在大學發展部工作,有不少慈善家經常在上層社交圈子露面,所以上司要我們習慣看高級時尚生活雜誌《Tatler》,熟悉他們的臉孔。哪位名媛淑女跟年輕才俊結婚,雜誌沒有多加解釋,只要證明門當戶對便成,結果我看了幾年也分不清他們是誰。「匹配」應該要有故事、有經歷:1925年,周有光在上海光華大學念書,時常回蘇州小住,他妹妹在張允和父親張武齡開辦的樂益女子中學讀書,和張允和是同學,張允和便經常到周家玩。周有光大學畢業不久,張允和與張兆和姐妹兩人離開了蘇州到上海就讀中國公學。中國公學的校長就是胡適,其中一位教授就是沈從文。原來著名文學家胡適也忙着做媒人,撮合了張允和跟周有光,她三妹張兆和與沈從文!談婚論嫁的時候,周有光曾經卻步,給張允和寫信說:「我很窮,恐怕不能給你幸福。」性格爽直的張允和馬上回了一封寫滿十幾頁的信說:「幸福不是你給我的,是要我們一起創造的。」

其實親歷過國內外戰爭、逃難、文化大革命、喪女之痛,他們的愛怎會單純是「流水式」 ?只是互相的尊重和欣賞已經昇華,不用常在一起仍然兩心相繫(周有光在重慶農本局工作時經常出差,張允和亦曾獨自往成都擔任教師)。「我跟她交朋友時,夏天請她到上海聽貝多芬的交響樂,在法租界的法國花園,一個人一個躺椅,躺着聽,很貴,兩個銀元一張票,躺了半天她睡着了……結了婚,她聽中國音樂我去參加,我聽西洋音樂她去參加。」生活情趣也能互相配合。他們晚年合出了散文集《多情人不老》,書名取自張允和贈俞平伯夫人的詩句「人得多情人不老,多情到老情更好」。既可讀成「多情人,不老」,也可念作「多情,人不老」,真妙!