Uber drivers found guilty of unlawful commercial car hire in Hong Kong

HONG KONG, March 10 (Reuters) - Five Hong Kong Uber drivers

were found guilty of illegally using their vehicles for

commercial purposes by a local court on Friday, dealing a

potential blow to Uber Technologies Inc's operations

in the Asian financial hub.

The verdict comes less than a month after the multi-billion

dollar ride-hailing service pulled out of Taiwan.

Uber, headquartered in San Francisco, has been facing

similar legal scrutiny in markets across Asia.

The judge, So Wai-tak, said the drivers' vehicles had been

used for commercial purposes and that their insurance excluded

commercial use leaving passengers unprotected.

The pressure against Uber in the China-ruled former British

colony stems in part from local taxi drivers mounting protests

against the online service for hurting their livelihoods. Uber

has faced similar protests across the world.

The financial hub of Hong Kong, while dubbed one of the

world's freest economies, has a tightly regulated taxi sector

that is known for its relatively low fares compared with other

global cities like London and New York.

Uber hasn't officially released figures on the size of its

business in Hong Kong, but it is believed more than one million

rides have so far been given with tens of thousands of

registered drivers.

(Reporting by Venus Wu and Sijia Jiang; Editing by James

Pomfret and Randy Fabi)