People have mixed feelings about cab drivers all over the world. Like many other things, you have the good, the bad, and the ugly. I feel most of Hong Kong’s cab drivers fall under the latter. There are cities where cab drivers have a reputation for being cool, chatty, characterful, and cheerful, while there are some that lean on the quite the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve had horrible experiences in my life so far (a particularly terrible one having happened in Paris, but then again what do you expect…), but this one takes the cake.
Hong Kong’s cab drivers are absolutely hated by expats and locals alike (obviously there are exceptions – some are friendly, or civilized at the very least) for their arrogant, surly, angry, sometimes violent behavior. And once you read about my experience, you should know that mine is not an isolated case. This has happened to a Polish female friend visiting from Singapore as well (but she was lucky, she had a guy with her to protect her), and a couple of months back James chased a taxi down the road after leaving his cellphone in it – but the cab driver sped off as fast as he could down Queen’s Road Central. A huge frustration of mine is that the Hong Kong Police cannot or refuses not to do anything about any of these incidents, no matter how frequent they are. Cab drivers get away with bad behaviour so easily, and it bolsters their confidence to commit repeated, and even worse offences.
I’ve been putting off the writing writing of this for four months now because it makes me so angry every time I think about it that I can’t even bring myself to put it down in words. But now I will. Enough build up, this is how the events played out:
It was around September 16 when my sister was still here. I jumped into a cab from Sheung Wan towards Kennedy Town where I was meeting her for lunch. I told the driver “Kennedy Town” and he headed off in the right direction. But when we got to Kennedy Town, I said “Belcher’s Street” and he started abusing me. He got angry that I didn’t tell him where exactly in Kennedy Town from the beginning (well he didn’t ask – it’s his job, isn’t it?!), and refused to take me to my destination. It was only a right turn he needed to do, and he didn’t want to. I answered back, saying “turn right here”, and he said no. Then he shouted at me to get out, and pointed at the door, motioning me to get out of his cab. So I got out.
I walked off and crossed the road without paying, because at this point I didn’t believe I was obliged to do so after he 1) did not deliver the service he was supposed to give me, and 2) he abused me by screaming at me. To my shock, he ran after me and blocked me on the road. I tried to walk past him, but he didn’t allow me to. Then he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let go. He said pay or he would call the police. I said no way. I offered HK$20 (it was supposed to be HK$34 or something) but he threw the money at me, literally stuffed it into my bag, and refused to accept it, saying I should pay the exact amount, no less. Then HE STARTED DRAGGING ME DOWN THE ROAD BACK TO HIS CAB. It’s unbelievable that in a global, first world city like Hong Kong you can be dragged down the street by force by a man (HE WAS SMALLER THAN ME) without anyone to help you. Nobody helped me. People were all looking, and talking to him, but absolutely nobody lifted a finger to help. He could have been a serial killer, rapist, homicidal maniac, and nobody could care less. I had to grab onto a pole in order for him not to drag me all the way back to his cab. He then grabbed my bag and almost ripped the strap, and wouldn’t let go. Then he just confiscated my bag from me.
Now you know the face of this monster of a human being.
Anyway, the police arrived and basically took his side. They took my HKID and told me I had to pay. They only cared about one thing: that I tried to leave without paying. It’s really all just about the money in this city, it makes me want to throw up sometimes. After minutes of arguing, the police threatened to put me in prison – they even wanted to see my wallet, implying that I ran away because I didn’t have the money to pay. Unbelievable. I showed my wallet to prove that I had more than enough money, and then they gave back my HKID after the cab driver gave us the change.
Basically, the police was showing the cab driver he did exactly the right thing, that he was totally in the right, and you can drag young girls wherever the hell you want if they don’t pay you. And treat people like shit because they owe you something. Makes me furious, and in a way I’m afraid this incident has made me jaded, hardened, and bitter towards some people here, especially cab drivers. After living in Hong Kong for years now, part of me gives less of a fuck about other people because I’ve experienced so much how much people don’t give a fuck about you, and will abuse you if you let them. So you better fight for yourself and be on the offensive lest you get trampled on.
Another thing about this whole incident that really riles me is that this wouldn’t have happened to me if I had been a man – especially a bigger man. If I had been stronger, the taxi cab driver wouldn’t have been able to bully and physically harass me. Sometimes I wonder if I should have kicked him and ran – but another part feels like he would have probably beaten me up or something had I tried to do this.
Apologies for this highly negative post, but, well, life in Hong Kong isn’t all flowers and butterflies. While I love so many things about it, there’s a grittier, nastier side to things as it is everywhere. And this is it.
Would love to hear your comments – leave a reply if you have something to say, good or bad.
Oh, and if you experience a negative incident with a Hong Kong cab driver, do complain to the Transport Complaints Unit at this link : http://www.info.gov.hk/tcu/taxi/index.htm . They actually responded to my complaint, asking if I’d like to press charges, or at least file it with the police, but I said no. I would normally want to, but Hong Kong and the Philippines aren’t exactly on good terms right now, and I feel like there’s institutional racism here anyway which works against me. Maybe I’m surrendering to defeat too easily, but there’s that and I don’t want to compromise my immigration status here. So yes, I am acting out of fear and cynicism… ha!
Until the next post – x