HONG KONG, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Police raided the Hong Kong offices of taxi-hailing service Uber Inc on Tuesday and arrested five drivers for the “illegal use of vehicles for hire”, police said.
A Hong Kong police senior inspector, Bruce Hung, said undercover police officers had used a mobile phone app to hail five cars, and after being driven to their destinations, arrested the drivers.
The drivers lacked the required hire car permits or third party insurance, he said.
The police officers’ fares had been settled using a credit card, Hung added.
Police also conducted a search of two offices in Hong Kong on Tuesday, including at least one belonging to Uber, a police spokeswoman told Reuters. Police were shown on local television taking away documents, computers and iPads.
At least three Uber staff were taken away by police, according to Hong Kong’s Cable Television.
The move by police against Uber in the China-ruled former British colony comes after local taxi drivers mounted protests against the online service for hurting their livelihoods. Uber has faced similar protests across the world, including in China where the U.S.-headquartered firm is expanding rapidly.
Uber was not immediately reachable for a comment.
In May, mainland Chinese authorities raided the offices of Uber on suspicion of an “unlicensed operation”.
Uber, which has been valued at over $51 billion, is a comparative latecomer in China, where the number of mobile taxi-hailing app users is forecast to triple to 45 million by 2015 from 2013, according to Chinese research firm iResearch.
Domestic firms Kuaidi Dache and Didi Dache, backed by tech giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd respectively, have 90 percent of the market sewn up. The two said in February they would merge. (Reporting by James Pomfret; editing by Andrew Roche)