By on January 7, 2011

Want to belong to a really exclusive club? Own a car in Beijing. Don’t have one yet? Sorry, try your luck in the license plate lottery. Out-of–towner? Don’t even think of entering downtown during rush-hour. “Vehicles that are not registered in Beijing are prohibited from entering the urban area inside the Fifth Ring Road during the two daily rush hours,” reports China Daily. Even during off-peak hours, Beijing’s capital is full of surprises for outsiders.

Beijing police has started handing out 100 Yuan ($15) fines to country folk that ignores the rush hour rule. $15 lighter, and with a warning notice in their hand, they are being turned around and sent back to the farm. The only way to get around it is with a special, and highly prized permit.

Even off-peak times can be a matter of high suspense: The “leave your car at home on one day of the week” rule now applies to out-of towners also. It depends on the last number of the license plate, and rules keep changing often enough to confuse even the most sophisticated Beijinger. Breaking that rule costs 300 yuan ($45).

The new rules jump-started a business that had been languishing in China: Car rentals. “Car rental agencies have been enjoying a boom in business ever since new restrictions made it harder for people to buy an automobile in the capital,” reports China Daily.

Another market is in a total state of confusion: Used cars. If you already own a car, you don’t need to enter the lottery if you get another one. That looked like a great loophole, and used cars turned into a prized possession. Then, word got around that the plates are not transferrable, and used car prices plummeted. Now, the market is in limbo and waits for new regulations to be handed down.

“The license plate lottery may benefit from some tweaks,” said China Daily yesterday. Beijing’s administration is taking the admonition to heart – and tweaks the system daily.

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