Hong Kong police have stepped up the issuance of illegal parking tickets without prior warning.
In a single week, authorities have issued over 40,000 tickets, pouring millions of dollars into government coffers.
But is the renewed campaign deterring drivers from illegal parking?
Robinson Road and Lyttelton Road in my Mid-Levels West neighborhood used to enjoy two-way traffic.
But due to rampant illegal parking of private sedans, traffic on the two roads has been reduced to a dangerous single lane for vehicles going either way.
During the first and second day of the campaign against illegal parking, car owners dutifully kept their vehicles off the road.
But the motorists didn’t even bother to wait till the following week; they soon came back to park their cars illegally despite the high-profile law enforcement drive.
It’s really not difficult to understand the risk the drivers are willing to take: most of them simply don’t have their own parking lot.
So their choice is either to pay under HK$3,000 as monthly rental at the nearby car park or pay the illegal parking penalty, which is merely HK$320.
Judging from my experience over the past few years, police officers have long abandoned their responsibility of combating illegal parking.
From the point of view of the car owner, what are the odds of receiving over a dozen of penalty tickets for illegal parking in a month? Very small.
No wonder drivers would rather park in the streets than find their cars a legitimate parking lot.
Meanwhile, car parks in heavy-traffic districts such as Central and Wan Chai often offer space at around HK$30 per hour.
Again, it’s not hard to understand why many car owners who intend to attend a brief business meeting or do some quick shopping would park by the road instead of obeying the law — why pay a few hundred dollars at the car park when you can take the risk of paying a penalty which may happen only occasionally?
The fact that Hong Kong police often announce to the public that they are launching a clampdown on illegal parking is itself amusingly ridiculous.
Issuing illegal parking tickets is, first and foremost, one of their many duties, which they need not state loudly and clearly.
By announcing a crackdown on illegal parking, they are indirectly admitting their negligence over the years.
What is alarming is that the law-breaking behavior of car owners remains commonplace after the police crackdown, which just goes to show that illegal parking is getting out of control.
Apart from illegal parking, the illegal occupation of government land has also become outrageous.
The Flower Market section of Prince Edward Road and Portland Street from Mong Kok to Yau Ma Tei have been turned into extensions of retail shops, either as workshop or storage spaces.
That’s not to mention the luxury squatter houses that have mushroomed in Shek O over the last three decades.
This lack of discipline has become more prominent since the 1997 handover. Why is the situation getting worse since the Chinese took over?
Is it because of a weak understanding of the rule of law? Is corruption in the Chinese gene?
Hong Kong’s legacy of a sound legal system from the British is falling apart.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 13.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
Police clampdown on illegal parking stirs up conflict, confusion (June 2, 2016)
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