Hong Kong needs stiffer fines for illegal parking

The current penalty is way too low to be a meaningful deterrent to one of the city’s thorniest problems

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2016, 12:45am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 2016, 12:45am

Finally, the police are getting tough with a problem that has long been bothering commuters. A week-long crackdown in Central and other districts notorious for illegal parking ended last week. More than 40,000 tickets were handed out during the operation. But whether traffic congestion would improve as a result is another matter.

One must wonder why it has taken so long for the police to step up enforcement. For those who have to put up with regular congestion caused by idling limousines waiting for bosses or lorries unloading goods in restricted zones, the crackdown was long overdue. Equally intriguing is the duration of the operation. The police must be aware that illegal parking in certain areas has been a long-standing problem. On the eve of the campaign, the media had already reported that the police were set to step up enforcement, with officers dishing out a fixed penalty without further warning. It would not be surprising if the public saw the show of force as a mere public relations effort.

Hong Kong drivers caught in surprise police blitz complain over ‘unfair’ fines ... despite being illegally parked

This is not to say that the police have been slack in enforcing the law throughout the rest of the year. The number of tickets handed out has indeed been rising over the past few years. But the fine is merely HK$320, which is absurdly lenient compared to the HK$1,500 fine for littering and HK$2,000 for jay walking.

It makes no sense to keep the fine at its current level. The Transport Advisory Committee has urged the government to raise it to at least HK$448. Whether a 40 per cent hike is steep enough is open to debate. But officials and lawmakers are still tiptoeing around the proposal.

Strict enforcement does not help when the penalty is too weak to ensure deterrence. The situation can only be curbed via a stiffer fine, which requires stronger will and determination to implement. We trust government officials and lawmakers have experienced for themselves how serious the traffic jams are across the city. Commuters look to them for a higher sense of urgency in tackling the problem.