Thousands of illegal cabs have been impounded and hundreds of drivers detained in a massive crackdown that Beijing police said should restore public safety on the road.
Since July 1, 17,000 so-called black taxi cabs have been hauled in by the Beijing public security bureau. Authorities said yesterday during a press conference that 51 drivers have been arrested and 2,200 detained.
Wu Mian, captain of the public transport battalion in the bureau, told China Daily yesterday that it is a routine crackdown on illegal taxis.
Fines for illegal cab drivers range from 10,000 yuan ($1,428) to 100,000 yuan, said Yu Minbing, the police officer in charge of the crackdown. Beijing police are scanning 30 key areas such as the Beijing railway station and Beijing International Airport where illegal taxis gather.
Wu said one primary reason for the crackdown was to stem a rise in crimes allegedly from illegal taxis. He said that as either illegal drivers are robbed or they rob passengers in their cars.
Since the beginning of the one-100-day campaign, police have reported 60 robberies in illegal taxis.
Other regions are following in Beijing's footsteps against illegal taxis. Henan province started a three-month crackdown on illegal taxis on Tuesday. Five cities in Sichuan province, such as Chengdu, have launched a special campaign to check overloaded vehicles and illegal taxis from Tuesday to the end of this month.
In the capital, however, there exists a strong presence of illegal drivers in places like Huixinxijie street of Chaoyang district, not one of the 30 key areas. Drivers wait outside the subway station, asking passers-coming out of the station if they want rides in their cars.
A 29-year-old woman, who refused to be named, said she is an illegal driver. She said she came to Beijing five months ago but failed to find a job. Driving illegally became a way to feed and clothe herself.
Illegal cabs were one of the reasons for strikes by licensed taxi drivers in several cities last year. A three-month nationwide campaign against unlicensed taxis was launched on Feb 20 by the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Security. The crackdown has impounded 248,000 vehicles by police officers, said the Ministry of Transport last month.
"Illegal drivers are able to avoid many fees we have to pay and earn money with fewer costs," said taxi driver Dong Yu, 34. "So the crackdown is good for taxi drivers like me."
Chu Dahao, a resident of Huixindongjie street said he would not usually take illegal taxis because they are not safe.
"But sometimes, there are no taxis available when I come home late at night. So I have to take illegal ones," he said.
Last year, he said he was charged 40 yuan ($5.80) by an illegal driver for driving him only 4 km.
The crackdown campaign will end on Oct 10 after the 60th anniversary of the founding of the New China.