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Drivers stage sit-in in license protest

HUNDREDS of cab drivers in northwest China's Xining City staged a sit-in in front of the municipal government headquarters yesterday to demand assurances that they will be able to renew their business licenses.

The drivers in the provincial capital of Qinghai were angered after a newspaper reported that provincial authorities would cut their license periods from 12 years to eight, but a government official said the drivers had misunderstood the regulations.

More than 5,000 drivers began a one-day strike on Saturday and hundreds of them convened the sit-in at around 10am yesterday, causing a brief traffic jam in the downtown area. They dispersed at around 3pm after local officials promised to address the issue.

Only a few taxis could be seen in central Xining.

The Xihai Metropolis News cited the regulation as saying: "After eight years, the drivers' operating rights in Xining will be taken back to the taxi companies and redistributed."

Some drivers warned they would continue the sit-in today if the government did not provide them with a satisfactory answer regarding who would have the operating rights after their licenses expired.

Privately owned

"We demand a straight answer from the government," said one. "Who will have the cab operating rights in eight years or 12 years, drivers or the taxi companies?"

Almost 90 percent of cabs in Xining are privately owned. Drivers can do business after paying a taxi company a monthly management fee of 600 yuan (US$87).

Cab drivers feared they would have to pay high rental fees to the taxi companies if they wanted to continue operating.

"The Xining government's policy regarding taxi operation rights has not changed," said Tan Mingjun, vice head of Xining Transportation Bureau. Tan confirmed that the regulation had stated the number of years a driver could operate should be eight years, but he said there were no plans to shorten the license period or take back operating rights.

Tan said the operating term had long been eight years, but the city made it 12 years after it adopted the even-odd license plate system in 2003, which aimed to keep half of the city's taxis off the road every second day.


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