South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
I watched a sad little circus in our Legislative Council this week. Stopping short of calling the performers a bunch of bozos, I would say they might as well have put on clown costumes and make-up to complete the picture.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum stymied the government’s long-overdue proposal to raise penalties for illegal parking by 50 per cent from next June.
It wasn’t enough for them that this is already a ridiculously benign effort to crack down on a problem that is a scourge of Hong Kong when it comes to quality of life. The plan is to raise penalties for different kinds of parking offences from HK$320 and HK$450 to HK$480 and HK$680. The amount will be commensurate with the severity of the offence, with drivers who pick up or drop off passengers in a restricted zone, for example, paying the stiffest fine.
This city hasn’t toughened its illegal parking penalties since 1994. For added context, the fine for littering is HK$1,500, and it’s a draconian HK$2,000 for jaywalking. Go figure.
Anyway, back in the big top, the argument presented by our elected representatives in favour of maintaining this ludicrous status quo was that the main reason for the problem was car ownership increasing faster than the growth of parking spaces. In a jaw-dropping, twilight-zone moment, someone even called for fines to be lowered. Yep, that ought to do it, Einstein.
Some problems in Hong Kong are just unfixable. This isn’t one of them. But it will never be fixed because of vested interests and a total lack of guts or will on the part of those in a position to do something about it.
Instead of my own commentary this time, let me quote our readers to break it down for you.
“90 per cent of Hong Kong residents don’t have cars. They are the sane ones – or the poor ones. Those with cars should have a fine of several thousand dollars for illegal parking. The fine could be reduced for delivery vehicles.”
“HK$680 is what these people pay for dessert. Proportional fines would work best; with Inland Revenue already having access to your tax returns, it shouldn’t be difficult to coordinate with the police/courts over fines. They could even be automatically stacked up on top of your tax next year.”
“Make it easier for police and traffic wardens to issue tickets; give them an app with GPS and they can photo the offender, issue ticket by email. At the moment they have to handwrite in triplicate, and most appear too lazy to do so!”
If affluent Hongkongers are fearless in the face of fines, why not simply start deducting points from their driving licences? The threat of losing their right to drive ought to make these incorrigibles toe the line. Or start a vigorous culture of towing away offending vehicles to teach them a lesson.
It’s so simple, but try running that past our feeble-minded politicians and weak-willed transport authorities. And don’t forget that the police may be part of the problem, with their half-hearted enforcement.
“Traffic police simply ask the drivers to move on and all they do is drive around the block and park back in the same place as the police officers have simply walked on.”
“An offence is 24/7, 365! Not a one-week advertised crackdown. That must be the dumbest law enforcement tactic. No wonder drivers constantly break the law.”
Conclusion: it’s hopeless. I’ll just leave you with this little gem seen online that would sum up the attitude of so many Hong Kong drivers: “Somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a note on my windscreen which said, ‘Parking Fine’. That was nice …”
Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post