Liberals against letting more mainland cars into HK

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 February, 2012, 12:00am


The normally government-friendly Liberal Party yesterday piled more pressure on the troubled plan to allow more mainland cars into the city for short visits, announcing it would oppose the scheme.

The Transport and Housing Bureau confirmed yesterday the plan, part of a cross-border agreement which will also see up to 50 Hong Kong cars each day allowed into Guangdong for up to a week, would require Legislative Council approval.

The party's three lawmakers are expected to join 23 pan-democrats in voting against the cross-border driving plan, which will need the backing of the majority of the 60-member Legco chamber.

'Hong Kong people have reacted strongly to the proposal to allow cars to come from the north, from mainland China,' party chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said as she led a protest by about a dozen Liberal Party members outside the government headquarters in Admiralty yesterday.

Under the current rules, 20,000 Hong Kong drivers are allowed to cross the border, but only 2,000 from the mainland will be permitted to enter the city. Lau argued that the city's roads were already crowded and would not be able to cope with an influx of cars.

In a separate protest, representatives of more than 20 social groups and the pan-democratic parties marched and cycled from Causeway Bay to Admiralty. Organisers said 1,500 people took part.

Applications are due to start for Hong Kong drivers wishing to take cars across the border next month and the first drivers are expected to pass through the Shenzhen Bay control point on April 27. But the government says it had no timetable in mind for the second phase, under which cars from Guangdong will be allowed into the city on a similar basis.

'The implementation of the second phase of the trial scheme would involve statutory amendments to provide legislative foundations for the provisions of temporary licences and relevant charges,' the bureau said yesterday in a statement. 'The Legislative Council would play an important role of gate-keeping.'

A government spokesman later confirmed this meant the scheme could not start without an endorsement from Legco.

Transport minister Eva Cheng said last week the scheme would be experimental and 'a small number' of mainland drivers would be allowed in initially.

Opponents of the plan say an influx of mainland-registered cars will add to pollution and congestion on the streets of the city. Some argue that mainland drivers, unused to right-hand-drive cars, will cause safety problems.