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Misuse of license plates must stop

By Wu Peng & Liu Zhengmao | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-02 08:00

Military vehicles in China will get new license plates from May 1 thanks to a national crackdown on the misuse of such number plates. Military vehicles' number plates are different from those of civilians'. But over the past few years, people have been complaining against the misuse of military vehicles, especially after reports that some are being used for private purpose.

The misuse of military vehicles has indeed tarnished the image of the military. Some vehicles do carry bogus military license plates, which has caused a public outcry even against genuine military vehicles.

The military follows strict rules for issuing license plates, as well as allocation of alarms and other devices for its vehicles. The military vehicle managing body strictly supervises the use of such vehicles, and military drivers who violate regulations are reported against and face severe punishment.

The procedure to issue military license plates, however, has not been updated in nine years, and some non-military officials exploit the loopholes to fix military number plates on their vehicles. The lure of money prompts those in charge of issuing military license plates to illegally lease, lend or assign them to non-military vehicles, which has become a problem for the military authorities.

License plates of vehicles are similar to identity cards of individuals. The traffic department can easily trace the owner, the place where the vehicle was sold and other details through a license plate. But for that, the license plate has to be issued legally.

Many people use fake military license plates to enjoy the privileges that military vehicles are accorded. For instance, vehicles with military license plates are exempted from paying vehicle and vessel tax and highway toll. They are exempt from inspection and parking regulations, too. Fake license plates or those acquired through unscrupulous means are usually used on smuggled or stolen luxury cars. In some cases, overloaded transport vehicles are painted army green and carry military license plates to avoid inspection and payment of toll.

According to official statistics, since the military license plate issuing procedure was updated in 2004, thousands of number plates have been "stolen" from the military and armed police force. From May to July last year, public security authorities, the military and armed police force launched a joint crackdown on the unauthorized use of military license plates. During the crackdown, they found that the confiscated vehicles had evaded tax of up to 1 billion yuan ($162 million) a year. This is a problem the military cannot afford to overlook.

To eliminate the abuse of military license plates, the military and the armed police force have been using anti-counterfeit technologies to issue new number plates. They have also taken other measures to tighten control on the approval process for license plates.

The military and armed police force are using six anti-counterfeit technologies, including optical anti-counterfeit and fluorescent anti-counterfeit mechanisms, to prevent the misuse of license plates. Anti-counterfeit electronic technologies are also being used at toll booths to spot vehicles with fake military license plates.

Besides, the military has tightened supervision for the approval of license plates and declared that certain types of vehicles are not eligible for new number plates, which include private cars, vehicles of local governments and those of local officials who hold dual positions in the military and armed police force. Also, the military will set up a database and supervisory network to oversee the licensing procedure.

Moreover, an accountability system has been introduced to prevent the use of military license plate by non-military vehicles and severely punish those misusing them.

The introduction of anti-counterfeit technologies and a strict supervision framework show how determined the authorities are to eliminate the misuse of military license plates. But the task cannot be accomplished overnight. In fact, before implementing the new license plate rules, the military in 2012 introduced stricter measures to curb the misuse of military vehicles. Not surprisingly, after the implementation of the new measures, reports of military vehicles violating traffic regulations in Beijing have dropped by 35 percent, compared with a year earlier. The battle to end the misuse of military license plates is a long-term one, and its success lies in day-to-day management and supervision, as well as severe punishment for offenders.

The authors are associated with the Graduates School of the People's Liberation Army National Defense University.

(China Daily 05/02/2013 page9)

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