China cracks down on loathed traffic passes carrying official privileges

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 9:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 January, 2014, 4:52pm

The Beijing Traffic Management Bureau will phase out permits that allow special driving privileges, such as running red lights without consequences and free parking, the Beijing Youth Daily has reported.

The passes, issued by various government agencies, were intended only for official vehicles on special occasions, such as those used by emergency crew, policemen and military staff. But they have been so widely abused over the years that privately-owned luxury cars are often seen sporting four or five special passes, each designated for a different group, pressed up against the inside of the windshield.

These passes of privilege have been blamed for traffic problems and become a constant topic of public anger, a symbol of the rich and powerful riding above the law.

The government will continue to issue some passes in 2014, but their numbers will be dramatically reduced, according to the report. 

One pass commonly seen on Beijing streets has a red background with the white characters jing bei, which means "military command." It is issued to members of the Communist Party’s Central Committee and top officials at central government ministries, allowing their vehicles to perform otherwise illegal traffic manoeuvres without being stopped by traffic police. 

Another highly coveted pass, with a large “P” in yellow, gives the driver toll-free access to most car parks in Beijing.

A special permit issued to the press, allowing journalists to park or stop in traffic for interviews or reporting emergencies, will also be cancelled starting today, according to the report. 

There have been many reports over the years of black-market trading of such special passes among the rich and powerful. Forgeries also abound, with scammers bulk-sending mobile phone messages to ordinary people offering jing bei passes for as low as 1,000 yuan (HK$1,268).

The crackdown on privileged traffic passes is seen as part of President Xi Jinping’s campaign against government corruption and extravagance.  

“Cacelling such special passes is not only in line with public opinion, but also helps improve traffic management,” the Beijing Youth Daily quoted a traffic control official as saying.