Diplomats evade parking fines

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2003, 12:00am

Consulates in Hong Kong used their diplomatic immunity to tear up 22 parking tickets last year.

The Italian Consulate, which topped the list with six tickets, apologised when approached by the South China Morning Post for a response.

'I'm sorry we are topping the list,' said a consulate spokesman. 'We will try to be more careful.'

While the total amount in fines for the 22 tickets was only $7,040, the Italian consulate conceded there was no good reason to break the law.

The Italians are not alone in asking the Protocol Office to excuse their illegal parking.

The United Arab Emirates consulate came second with five tickets while Hungary, Israel, Russia and Thailand each had two tickets waived last year.

But police have sought to play down the privilege given to the consulates, saying the waiver was granted under the traffic law and anyone could apply.

'Usually the reasons given are that the applicant is not a local resident or they are not familiar with the local situation or legislation. It is not a case of diplomatic immunity,' a spokesman said.

Police have reportedly been more lenient towards drivers because of the economic downturn, with 466,000 tickets issued for illegal parking in the first 11 months of last year, 190,000 down on the figure for 2001.