Less than a week after police raided Uber’s Guangzhou office, authorities in Chengdu felt similarly inspired and paid a visit yesterday to the US based ride-sharing app’s offices in their city.
Just after the raid was carried out yesterday afternoon with dozens of the company’s drivers looking on, images from the investigation went viral on Weibo, but thus far few details have been released. An official at the city’s transport commission simply told the Global Times that authorities had visited to “obtain information.”
Al-Jazeera cites another official at Chengdu’s city transportation commission as saying that Uber was under suspicion of allowing private drivers to offer their services via the taxi-hailing app, and can expect fines for offering such services.
Uber has expanded to 56 countries and more than 300 markets in just six year, including 11 Chinese cities, though that number may be rapidly dwindling. Last week, police raided Uber offices in the southern city of Guangzhou, seizing more than a thousand iPhones and causing a stir online. Southern Weekly reports that Uber’s services in Guangzhou are back after the raid, though scaled down.
The company arrived in Chengdu in October of last year and had seen its services prosper there, becoming the company’s third biggest market in China, behind only Beijing and Shanghai, with more than 10,000 drivers for hire.
But government crackdowns further raise the question of whether Uber will be able to survive in China where they already face an uphill battle against the traditional taxi industry and well-entrenched native chauffeur service apps that are backed by heavy investors. Estimates put Uber’s share of the Chinese market for booking taxis via smartphones at a mere 1%, while the recently merged Chinese apps Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache make up the difference and have the opportunity to roll out new features.
Following the raid, Uber sent a text message out to its drivers in Chengdu, reassuring them that’s really nothing to worry about. Chengdu Living has a translation:
[Uber] Dear partner, we will continue to actively communicate and participate with local authorities, as of now Uber operation in Chengdu is normal. The best way that you can support Uber is by serving residents of Chengdu and to remain calm. Thank you for your support and understanding! Uber Chengdu will continue working hard to provide more support and better service to you!
If worse comes to worse in Shanghai for Uber, they can always use their helicopters for a quick escape.
by Alex Linder
[Images via NetEase]