22nd October, 2014
Chiu Luen Claims Income Suffers due to Occupy, Drivers Says Business Gets Better
Kowloon Public Light Bus Chiu Luen Chiu Chow Traders and Workers Friendly Association Limited (Chiu Luen) claimed that the Occupy Mong Kok movement is pushing the company to the edge of bankruptcy and sought for injunction order from High Court to order the disperse of protesters in Mong Kok protest site. However, mini-bus drivers said that the majority of Chiu Luen’s routes do not go pass the protest site in Mong Kok, and given the reduced number of buses in Mong Kok the traffic has been smooth since the occupation began which allows them to make USD10 – 15 more a day. The mini-bus drivers also pointed out that even though Chiu Luen claimed that drivers’ income has been affected by the occupation, Chiu Luen has not reduced the “management fee” (these mini-bus routes are not franchised which means anyone can operate the route as long as they have appropriate licenses and vehicles, but there are orangisations who “operate” these routes in an organised manner. There have been lots of news reports suggesting that organised gangs are in charge of managing these non-franchised mini-bus routes).
Chiu Luen operates three non-franchised mini-bus routes in Mong Kok that go to Rhythm Garden in Tsz Wan Shan, Kwun Tong and To Kwa Wan. Drivers who work under Chiu Luen’s routes said that all three routes now go directly from the terminal in Mong Kok to Argyle Street which do not go pass the occupied site located in Nathan Road and Portland Street. Our reporter took one of Chiu Luen’s mini-bus from Mong Kok Sin Tat Plaza to Kwun Tong around 6pm, the mini-bus went straight to Argyle Street from the terminal. The 12 minutes journey was smooth and with no traffic congestion.
The lawyer representing Chiu Luen claimed that the Kwun Tong to Olympic Station route, one of the routes the company/association has been operating for decades, suffers from the protest because it has been suspended. According to data and information, the mini-buses of this route only go into Argyle Street briefly when they reach Sai Yee Street after 7:45pm to head to Olympic Station.
A driver said the reason for this route going through Argyle Street is that Chiu Luen parks their vehicles near Olympic Station. However, almost all passengers that take this route and get on in Kwun Tong get off in Mong Kok, so between Mong Kok and Olympic Station the vehicles are almost always empty. The driver also said this route has been making losses for years, and Chiu Luen keeps this route alive because they want all their vehicles parked at their terminal in Olympic Station where they will start from the same spot to pick up passengers in Mong Kok.
The driver also said that since the occupation in Mong Kok began, around three more vehicles full of “anti-Occupy Mong Kok” people take this route to protest in Mong Kok. In addition, with fewer buses on the road making the traffic less congested in Mong Kok, he makes around US$10-15 more a day. The driver stressed that he was neutral toward the occupy movement, but only voiced his opinion as Chiu Luen had lied.
The driver also said that Chiu Luen’s management is very friendly with the Anti-Occupy Central Alliance. In September, before the Umbrella Revolution began, Chiu Luen already started to request drivers and mini-bus owners to put up anti-Occupy Central posters inside the mini-buses. Also, a couple days before Chiu Luen went to the High Court to apply for the injunction order, Chiu Luen had demanded drivers to sign a petition which claims compensation from organisations involved in the movement.
Chiu Luen owns over 100 mini-buses. Some drivers said that each mini-bus driver has to pay around USD250 a month as “management fee” to Chiu Luen before the vehicle is allowed to drive the routes Chiu Luen controls. However, after the occupation began, the “management fee” has not been lowered, so Chiu Luen’s business should not have been affected at all.
Mr Wong, a mini-bus driver of the route between Mong Kok and Kowloon City, said that since the occupation began, many passengers who typically take buses have switched to mini-buses, so he drives at least one more round a day. He also said that the traffic is a bit more congested from Mong Kok to Price Edward West. Another driver of the franchised route between Mong Kok and Kwun Tong said that because Nathan Road is occupied by protesters, many private vehicles turn to other roads, creating traffic jams on Argyle Street. He said that the journey which used to take 15 minutes is now taking 30 minutes or almost an hour, so he makes around USD15-20 less each shift.