Cab drivers take traffic bureau to court
Three Beijing taxi drivers have taken the Beijing Municipal Transportation Management Bureau to a grass-roots court after being refused individual taxi licences.
There has not yet been a decision from the Xuanwu District People' Court.
At the moment, almost all 66,700 authorized cabs in the city are operated by some 300 companies.
Plaintiffs Shao Changliang, Wang Xueyong and Che Dianguang applied for private car licences to the transport management bureau in July.
They were refused because the bureau said a limit imposed by a new transport plan on the number of cabs in Beijing -- less than 60,000 by 2005 -- would be exceeded if licences were granted.
The bureau also rejected a request to hold a public hearing on the issue.
The plaintiffs claimed the behaviour of the bureau violated the Administrative Licensing Law, which went live on July 1.
After asking the court to withdraw the bureau's rejections, plaintiff Shao said: "The basis of the defendant's decision not to permit our private taxi operation is the municipal five-year transport plan. But the layout lacks any legal validity."
Only laws, regulations and standard documents are valid as proof of government decisions, Shao said.
"So the bureau's decisions are invalid in law," he concluded.
Shao said officials with the organization that drafted the plan, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, also said the plan was not compulsory.
"The plan is only a directory document," Wang Yuming, an official with the commission, was quoted by Shao as saying.
"The five-year plan is a legal and valid document," Sun Hongjun, representative of the bureau, said yesterday at court.
"As a government department that supervises taxi industry development, the bureau should enforce all laws, regulations and documents," he said.
Sun also said the plaintiffs' applications were refused not because they wanted individual permits. "Any application will be rejected, whether from State-owned, joint or individuals. the ruling concerns the number of taxis in Beijing," he stressed.
Shao said the real aim of the rejection is to increase the monopoly of the taxi market in Beijing and reap colossal profits.
"There is no law or regulation restricting the amount of taxi cars in Beijing," he said.
Wang, one of the other plaintiffs, said individual taxi operations would boost taxation income and increase drivers' salaries.
Each taxi driver in Beijing has to pay 4,500 yuan (US$540) per month to their company.
"We have to work for 12 to 14 hours per day to earn 1,500 yuan (US$180) to 1,800 yuan (US$220) per month," he said.
Sources with the transport management bureau said nearly 1,000 applications had been received for private taxi licences prior to the three plaintiffs' applications.
Nearly 200 taxi drivers and taxi companies heard yesterday's hearing.