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Shenzhen car ban slammed

2014-12-31 09:23 Global Times Web Editor: Wang Fan

Experts question legal basis for sudden move

The South China city of Shenzhen's recent restriction on car purchases has attracted nationwide debate over its potential impact, while legal scholars questioned the policy's legal basis.

Restrictions on car purchases abruptly announced by Shenzhen authorities late on Monday afternoon have left many residents in the southern metropolis startled at a lack of prior notice or public consultation.

Following the practice of other megacities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Shenzhen became the eighth city to impose a ban on car purchases. Starting from 6 pm Monday, the municipal government will only issue 100,000 permits a year, with 60,000 plates to be issued via lottery.

The restriction was announced less than one hour before it became effective. A car sales representative working for a local auto store told the Global Times that traffic police and law enforcement had already sealed the store to keep anxious customers from entering before the ban took effect.

Many netizens expressed their belief that the move reflected poorly on the government's credibility, since Shenzhen Mayor Xu Qin had ruled out the possibility of imposing limits on car purchases or license plates in the city in January.

"The [Shenzhen] government promised it will not impose a ban early this year. Now where is the government's credibility?" asked one Net user.

Other users suggested that the municipal government's ban may have violated the law, depriving citizens of their rights.

Legal scholars have also questioned the legal basis of the Shenzhen government's abrupt move. "Local governments should get approval from the National People's Congress (NPC) and the State Council before they introduce any major policies," Qin Qianhong, a legal professor at Wuhan University, told the Global Times.

He also said police's move to seal off the auto stores prior to the policy taking effect might have illegally restricted customers' right to purchase vehicles.

"The public has high expectations for government credibility after the central government's pledge [to seek] 'rule of law' in the [recent] Fourth Plenary Session," added Qin.

Local government's unregulated power to intervene the market may be curbed in the future, Qin argued, as the NPC Standing Committee is currently revising a draft law that would ban local governments from issuing regulations that limit the rights of citizens and organizations.

However, He Bing, vice president of the Law School of China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that it is unlikely the law will pass, as a law limiting local governments would go against the central government's pledge to decentralize its power.

The China Association of Automobile Manufactures on Tuesday also expressed doubts that the Shenzhen government's move will be able to solve pollution and traffic problems, and suggested the city use economic tools to solve the problems instead.

The city's transport commission, however, said that the policy was necessary to battle congestion and air pollution in a city with 3.14 million private cars but only 1.04 million parking spaces.

"To [clean the air and improve traffic], the [quota] should be supported by a series of comprehensive policies such as improving the road system," Dai Xingyi, an environmental science and engineering professor at Fudan University, told the Global Times.

Cui Dongshu, deputy secretary-general of the National Passenger Car Association, told the Global Times that the ban in Shenzhen is an intervention in the market economy, and will only slow down, rather than halt, the city's overheated car sales growth.

Now that such restrictions have been imposed in most of China's largest cities, Cui expects slightly smaller cities like Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan Province to become the next targets.

Zhu Lijia, a public management professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, believes other cities may follow Shenzhen's example before legislation takes effect limiting local governments' power to restrict purchases.

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