Brake time: Beijing bans 70pc of government cars to ease smog during Apec meeting

Restriction on what may amount to thousands of official vehicles designed to cut smog and ease traffic

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:56pm

Beijing has vowed to keep 70 per cent of its government cars off the roads for 16 days from tomorrow, to cut smog and ease traffic during high-level meetings ahead of the Apec summit.

The municipal government will impose the restriction on what may amount to thousands of official vehicles from August 6 to 21 as world leaders gather in the Chinese capital for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s third senior officials’ meeting.

"To make sure the air quality is good and the traffic is flowing during the meetings, [Beijing’s] municipal government decided that 70 per cent of cars from every level of the party and governmental offices and municipal state-run enterprises would stop running,” an official government notice said.

The notice also urged Beijing residents to take public transport, cycle or walk instead of taking cars. More than a million cars take to the city's streets each day.

Beijing, the country’s seat of power, had an estimated 62,026 official cars for its municipal departments and state-owned enterprises, as of the latest official figure from 2011, according to the Beijing Finance Bureau.

Apec is the biggest economic forum in Asia-Pacific region. The third senior officials’ meeting is the last comprehensive meeting in the run-up to the summit in November.

Beijing’s measures for this latest meeting would be a test for the efficacy of its preparations ahead of the prestigious summit, the notice added.

China’s capital has been plagued by heavy smog in recent years. Beijing was blanketed in dense smog last Thursday and Friday, according to the Beijing environmental monitoring centre. Vehicle exhaust is a big factory in air pollution.

The Apec has 21 member countries, comprising approximately 55 per cent of the world’s GDP and 44 per cent of the world trade, according to its official website. The Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting will be held in Beijing in November.

China has given paramount importance to the November event, starting its preparations last October.

The Beijing municipal government’s notice also described the Apec meeting as another big event after the 2008 Beijing Olympics and “New China’s” 60th anniversary celebration.

Traffic restrictions are typically enforced by Beijing before important events. It introduced the scheme of banning either odd- or even-numbered licence plates on certain days during the 2008 Olympic Games. The policy is still in force.

Last January, Beijing ordered 30 per cent of the municipal government vehicles off the road when Beijing’s air pollution reached hazardous levels.

And last year, the Communist Party banned the use of general-purpose government vehicles in all departments nationwide after reports surfaced of officials using the cars for private errands.

The party was also seeking to cut down on the waste and cost of issuing such vehicles. As of November last year, the central government owned, in total, two million official cars, which cost as much as 200 billion yuan (HK$244 billion) a year, local media reported.