Don't extend welcome to mainland cars
Against some popular local opinions, this paper has defended, on moral and economic grounds, the right of mainlanders to visit Hong Kong. I share this principled stance. But let us stop at letting mainland vehicles onto our already congested and polluted streets. We should welcome mainland visitors, but not in their private cars.
First, the vast majority have no need to bring along their cars. Cross-border infrastructure and the city's public transport system are more than ample to take care of their travel needs. Driving conditions on Hong Kong roads are challenging enough even for local drivers. It's even more difficult when you have been accustomed to driving on the right, as is the case on the mainland.
Our own drivers already have some really bad habits, such as changing lanes without signalling, having no respect for pedestrians, and driving aggressively. Such bad behaviour is even worse on the mainland. Can we expect these mainland drivers magically to improve once they hit local roads?
Transport bureaucrats say mainland drivers must have clean records and know the risks of driving on the opposite side. But they fail to inform us what foolproof system they have in place to check and monitor. The reason? My guess is that they don't have such a system. They say mainlanders will only be allowed to drive for a week in the early phase of the scheme. That will mean once these novices get used to Hong Kong roads, they have to leave, and new ones come in. Is that supposed to make us safer?
Why are local officials like Eva Cheng, Secretary for Transport and Housing, so keen about the scheme? They are staring at a potential white elephant in the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, due to open in 2016, and need to justify the project.
It's not too late to call off the scheme and Cheng hinted yesterday that she was reconsidering it. And so she should.