Joyce Man, SCMP – May 30, 2009
Taxi drivers have vowed to oppose proposed legislation banning them from idling their engines while parked – which causes pollution but keeps the air conditioner running – after a driver was fined for getting angry with a passenger who left his car because it was too hot.
Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group chairman Lai Ming-hung said the taxi sector unanimously disapproved of the measure and this incident had increased their opposition. “The proposal hasn’t even come into law yet, and it has already caused problems,” he said.
Chan Man-kin, 29, plans to appeal after being fined HK$1,200 by Deputy Special Magistrate Liza Li Lai-shan in Tsuen Wan Court for behaving other than in a civil and orderly manner.
The court heard that early on November 4 last year Chan had parked his taxi on Nathan Road near Shan Tung Road in Mong Kok and switched off his engine, meaning the air conditioning was also off.
At about 1am firefighter Cheung Wing-hei got into the cab and asked to be driven to Wong Tai Sin, but then got out complaining the car was too stuffy.
Angry, Chan shouted at Mr Cheung, telling him not to play around, but Mr Cheung ignored him. Chan continued shouting and Mr Cheung turned around and said he was going to file a complaint.
It was not clear whether Chan had already started his meter, the court heard.
But Mr Lai said it had been turned on and likened the passenger’s action to going to a restaurant, drinking tea and leaving without paying.
“This law would be very inappropriate for our industry,” Mr Lai said, referring to the proposed legislation. “That person wouldn’t take the car because of the heat. It has happened already.”
But lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said that in this case it might have been the lack of legislation that caused the confusion.
“If there was legislation, it would have been clearer. Because there was no legislation, this guy asked why he switched off his engine,” he said.
“You need to make sacrifices to be environmental,” added Mr Cheng, who is deputy chairman of the Legislative Council’s panel on transport and a member of the subcommittee on improving air quality.
Mr Lai wrote to the Department of Justice and police yesterday asking why charges had been laid against Chan when both he and Mr Cheung had been involved in the argument.
Police had told Chan to pursue the payment in the Small Claims Tribunal, but that would be a waste of time, Mr Lai said in the letter. A date has not yet been set for the Legislative Council to discuss the proposal.