The great driving licence handout

Legislators question screening process as nearly 37,000 drivers given local licence without a test

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 June, 2013, 5:39am

More driving licences are issued under a scheme which allows non-local drivers to obtain a Hong Kong licence without a test than through the city's driving examinations, Transport Department figures show.

Lawmakers are now calling for a review of the list of countries which have an exchange agreement with Hong Kong and the screening procedure for drivers.

Last year, 36,873 licences for private cars, light goods vehicles and motorcycles were issued through the "direct issue" scheme, 1,055 more than those issued through a local driving test. In 2011, 30,930 people passed their driving test in Hong Kong, compared to 34,660 licences issued under the scheme.

The proportion of mainland drivers obtaining a licence through the scheme increased from 43.8 per cent in 2008 to 60.2 per cent last year.

NeoDemocrats lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai said one man had complained to him about not being able to obtain a British licence under the exchange scheme after the authorities there told him they had reasons to believe he had not passed the Hong Kong driving test and rejected his application.

Fan said if Hong Kong did not tighten its screening process more countries might follow suit and impose stricter requirements. "Then Hong Kong driving licences will be depreciated," he said.

Fan also suggested the department analyse by nationality the use of fake documents and remove countries that top the list from the exchange deal.

Democratic Party legislator Wu Chi-wai said simple examinations could be introduced to ensure drivers were up to standard before issuing them with a Hong Kong licence.

The Transport Department said it took into account countries' driving tests when it drew up the list.

Since March, all jurisdictions in Australia, except Queensland, have allowed Hong Kong drivers over 25 to get an Australian licence. A spokesman for New South Wales said more than 120 such licences had been issued.

Ausroads, the association of Australian and New Zealand traffic authorities, said if a licence raised doubts, applicants must provide official confirmation of having passed a test from the original licensing authority.