Police raided Uber’s offices in Hong Kong and arrested several drivers who did not have the requisite permits or insurance.

Several Uber drivers were arrested in Hong Kong on suspicion of operating illegally, in a setback for the controversial taxi app‘s ambitions to conquer the Chinese markets.

Police officers acting undercover hailed five cars using a mobile app and arrested the drivers for the “illegal use of vehicles for hire” upon arriving at the destinations.

A senior inspector in Hong Kong said the drivers did not have the necessary hire car permits or third party insurance.

Police also conducted a search of two offices in Hong Kong on Tuesday, including at least one belonging to Uber, a police spokeswoman told Reuters. Police were shown on local television taking away documents, computers and iPads.

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Taxi drivers driving vacant taxis in queues caused traffic jams on a road in the Chinese city of Wuhan during an Uber protest on 10 Aug 2015  Photo: Imaginechina/REX Shutterstock

An Uber spokesperson said, “Our driver-partners are an important part of what makes Uber special: the ability to push a button and get a safe, reliable, affordable ride. They are the sons and daughters of Hong Kong and we are 100pc behind them”.

Earlier this year, police raided Uber offices in the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Chengdu on suspicion of unlicensed operations. The San Francisco-based company, as well as its Chinese rivals such as Didi Kuaidi, has been the subject of several protests by disgruntled licensed taxi drivers.

China is swiftly becoming one of Uber’s most important markets. Chief executive Travis Kalanick said recently, “China now represents the largest region outside the US and, at the current growth trajectory, will most likely surpass the US before year-end.”

Mr Kalanick said the company would dedicate $1bn this year to its “number one priority” of capturing the Chinese taxi market, which is believed to be at least 80pc dominated by Didi Kuaidi.

The number of mobile taxi-hailing app users is forecast to triple to 45m this year from two years ago, according to Chinese research firm iResearch.

Uber recently completed a $1bn funding round, bringing its valuation to $50bn and making it the highest valued start-up in the world.

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