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Uber drivers in Taiwan call for legalization

HUNDREDS of Uber drivers joined a motorcade in Taiwan Friday to protest against the authority's decision to slap a suspension ban on their services last week.

The motorcade, with cars carrying Uber logos or slogans such as "Legalize Uber," drove around the transportation authority's building. Several protesters also sat in front of the building, holding placards calling for a meeting with the chief transportation official.

Uber announced Thursday that it would suspend services in Taiwan starting Feb. 10 following the transportation authority's issuance of 11 fines for Uber, which totaled over 230 million new Taiwan dollars (US$7.4 million).

Taiwan regards Uber services as illegal as it is not registered as a taxi service, and allegations of tax avoidance. Uber said the allegations were baseless.

"We're not a taxi company so it's absurd to ask us to register as one. We are a smartphone application that connects people willing to share their ride with people needing one," Uber responded earlier in a statement.

The U.S.-based ride-hailing app entered Taiwan in 2013 and, up until the ban, operated in four cities, including Taipei and Kaohsiung. It said it has provided 15 million trips, with more than 1 million people having downloaded the app and 16,000 citizens becoming drivers.

Local taxi drivers accuse the firm of illegally operating taxi services, which has affected their income.

On Friday, Uber released a farewell letter saying it was unwilling to and hoped it was not forced to, withdraw from Taiwan.

"The decision has affected more than 1 million people that rely on Uber, but these endless fines make it hard to survive in such an environment," it said.

In another statement released Friday, the Uber Taiwan team said they hope to restart conversations with the island's administration to find a way to allow ride-sharing to flourish.

"We will do everything we can to restart the service," the statement read.


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