Law enforcement on the road to nowhere

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 3:22am

It's just as well that my colleague over on the Lai See column, down there in the rear of our Business section, has taken leave, given an item of news befitting the silly season. Last week we and other local media reported that the police were at a loss to deal with a bit of cheekiness on the part of chauffeurs ordered to move along while awaiting their employers' return from lunch. The offenders, it seems, are happy to pay the fine.

As regular readers will be aware, over the past couple of years Lai See has been waging a campaign worthy of Hong Kong's equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize for crusading journalism, if there is such a thing. Lai See has fired salvo after salvo at this anti-social behaviour, in which a certain class of road user instructs its hired help to break the law and commit a public nuisance, engines running and a HK$450 fine be damned.

Lai See, if it had not been taking time out, would have had something apoplectic to say about this latest development, of that we can be sure, as did other sections of the city's commentariat.

However, in the flood of indignation provoked by the police's admission of their impotence, a few of salient points have been overlooked. Firstly, the blowhards in their Alphards clogging this city's arteries are guilty not of mere illegal parking - they are causing an obstruction on a public highway, an offence which can attract a fine of HK$2,000 and up to three months' imprisonment. Secondly, any person who disobeys the instructions of a police officer "engaged in the regulation of traffic on a road" (to quote the Road Traffic Ordinance), is committing an offence also liable to a HK$2,000 fine. A couple of those in short order may make at least the humbler sweatshop owner wince, but even more severe sanctions are at hand, such as impounding the vehicle and adding demerit points to the driver's licence.

By far the most intriguing question, however, is why a select few should be shown such leniency. The humourless Robocops who police this town don't do forbearance when it comes to insolence, at least not in my humble experience. So if the plutocrats may be excused from mere traffic laws, by virtue of their money, what else can it be that they are getting away with?