Beijingers who are lucky enough to win the license plate lottery may be punished severely – if they don’t buy a car. In the beginning of the year, China’s capital instated a rule by which new car owners must enter a lottery for a license plate. Only 17,600 plates are available per month. In the latest draw, some 530,000 people did compete for the 17,600 plates. Only one out of 30 applicants could win. And what are the lucky winners doing? Most of them do nothing. In April, only 3,700 exercised their hard-won right and bought a car. At least that’s up from 2,000 in January. Now, the city is thinking about meting out harsh punishment.
At bjhjyd.gov.cn, the website where the carless Beijinger applies for a lottery ticket to ride, the city solicits public opinion about possible penalties for people who win, but don’t buy. (If you go to the site, many security services will warn you that it contains spyware – just take my word for it. It’s in Chinese anyway.)
One option is to keep the current policy. Currently, if the right is not used within six months, it is forfeited, but the prospective car owner can re-apply. Good luck. Another choice is to bar them from applying for a year. The third option is no lucky draw for two years.
Doing away with the lottery is not on the menu. Neither is transferring the right, which would create a frenzy of a market.
According to China Daily, “Beijing’s auto market has stagnated since car restriction regulations took effect.” Stagnated? Collapsed would be the appropriate word. A total of 71,900 cars were sold in the first four months of this year in the city, a 62 percent drop compared with the same period last year.
Last year, between 700,000 and 890,000 cars changed hands in Beijing, nobody knows for sure. Beijing’s population is 19.6 million. As of April, there were 4.9 million registered vehicles in the capital.