LCQ17: Cross-boundary vehicle licences and ad hoc quota trial scheme for cross-boundary private cars

     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse Wai-chun and a written reply by Acting Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Yau Shing-mu, at the Legislative Council meeting today (February 22):


     Recently, the issue of whether mainland citizens should be allowed to drive to Hong Kong under the trial scheme on one-off ad hoc quotas for Guangdong/Hong Kong cross-boundary private cars (Self-drive Tour Scheme) has aroused much contention in Hong Kong. A lot of members of the public have voiced their opposition on the Internet, and the organisation of a march in protest of the Scheme is brewing. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the driving licenses other than the driving licenses issued by the drivers' countries of origin that mainland people and people of other nationalities (e.g. European countries, the United States, and Canada, etc. where left-hand drive is implemented) should possess as well as the eligibility criteria they should meet at present in order to drive legally in Hong Kong;

(b) of the number of mainland citizens who met the criteria set out in (a) and were permitted to drive in Hong Kong in each of the past three years;

(c) among the traffic accidents occurred in Hong Kong in the past three years, of the respective numbers of those involving mainland drivers and drivers of other nationalities, together with a breakdown by the nationality of the drivers;

(d) of the respective numbers of penalty tickets issued or prosecutions instituted by the law enforcement authorities of Hong Kong against mainland drivers and drivers of other nationalities for violation of traffic legislation in the past three years, together with a breakdown by category of the offences and type of traffic accidents involved (set out in table form);
(e) of the number of vehicles that have obtained approval for regular quotas (commonly known as "cross-boundary vehicle licences") and are running in Hong Kong at present; among those vehicles, the respective numbers of those that are registered in Hong Kong and on the Mainland; whether they are required to meet certain technical specifications; if so, of the details; of the channels for submitting applications for "cross-boundary vehicle licences" for vehicles not registered in Hong Kong, not imported through manufacturers or importers, as well as for those vehicles registered in overseas countries and were used outside Hong Kong (e.g. in Japan, the United States, Australia, and Europe); whether there is any difference between the vetting criteria for such applications and those for ordinary applications; if so, of the details; whether it knows which mainland or Hong Kong government departments or authorities accept applications for "cross-boundary vehicle licences", and which mainland or Hong Kong government departments or authorities have the authority to issue such licences; of the eligibility criteria for applying for "cross-boundary vehicle licences", and the application fees;

(f) before deciding to implement the policy on allowing mainland citizens to drive to Hong Kong under the Self-drive Tour Scheme, whether it had estimated the number of mainland citizens driving to Hong Kong each year after the implementation of the policy; further, whether it had assessed if public consultation would be needed; if it had, of the result of the assessment, and if the assessment result was in the affirmative, whether it had conducted consultation; if no assessment had been made, whether it can immediately conduct such an assessment; and

(g) whether it has considered setting up parking areas for Self-drive Tour Scheme vehicles in the vicinity of boundary control points to impose a restriction that Self-drive Tour Scheme vehicles may only park in such parking areas after entering Hong Kong, and the drivers may use feeder transport services to travel to the urban areas, so as to avoid the substantial impact of the Self-drive Tour Scheme on road usage, traffic order, enforcement of traffic regulations, insurance claims and air pollution, etc. in Hong Kong?



(a) For overseas driving licence holders who wish to drive in Hong Kong, they may do so through one of the following means:

(i) apply for a full driving licence by direct issue without test;
(ii) apply for a temporary driving licence; or
(iii) drive on strength of their valid overseas driving licence or international driving permit if they are visitors to Hong Kong (visitors mean that they arrive in Hong Kong other than to take up residence for a period not exceeding 12 months).

     For an overseas driving licence holder who intends to apply for direct issue of full driving licence without test, he must fulfill the following criteria:

(i) hold an overseas driving licence issued by one of the countries or places specified under the Fourth Schedule of the Road Traffic (Driving Licences) Regulations (Cap.374B) (the Regulations);
(ii) the overseas driving licence must be:
(a) valid or has not expired for more than 3 years; and
(b) must be obtained through passing relevant driving test held in the issuing country or place.
(iii) the driving entitlement(s) applied for must be equivalent to the class(es) of vehicles which the applicant is authorised to drive by the issuing country or place.
(iv) satisfy any one of the requirements listed below:
(a) have resided in the overseas country or place of issue for a period of not less than 6 months during which the licence was issued;
(b) have held the licence for 5 years or more immediately prior to the application; or
(c) hold a passport or equivalent travel document of the country or place in which the licence was issued.

     For visitors to Hong Kong who hold a non-Hong Kong driving licence not issued by one of the countries or places specified under the Fourth Schedule of the Regulations, they can apply for temporary driving licences in accordance with section 13 of the Regulations, and has to apply for a driving test within 3 months after the date of arrival in Hong Kong. If he fails in any part of the driving test, his temporary driving licence will be cancelled.

(b) The People's Republic of China (PRC) is one of the recognised countries or places for direct issue of Hong Kong full driving licence. From 2009 to 2011, the numbers of Hong Kong full driving licence directly issued to applicants on the strength of PRC driving licence were as follows:

Year      No. of Cases
2009        13,660
2010        16,290
2011        19,680

     According to section 13 of the Regulations, temporary driving licence is not applicable to valid non-Hong Kong driving licence issued by one of the countries or places specified under the Fourth Schedule. Therefore, temporary driving licence is not applicable to Mainland drivers who hold a valid driving licence issued by PRC.

     Visitors to Hong Kong can drive in Hong Kong with their valid overseas driving licences or international driving permits without any registration procedures. Therefore, the Transport Department does not have the relevant records.

(c) The Transport Department does not have figures of traffic accidents categorised by nationality of drivers (including whether they are holders of Hong Kong Identity Cards).

(d) The Hong Kong Police does not have figures of traffic offence contravention and prosecution categorised by nationality of drivers (including whether they are holders of Hong Kong Identity Cards).

(e) At present, cross boundary vehicles are regulated under a quota system jointly administered by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Guangdong Provincial Government. These vehicles must have the Approval Notice issued by the Guangdong Public Security Department and closed road permit issued by the Transport Department, and have completed the formalities required by other Mainland authorities, before they could travel between Hong Kong and Guangdong.

     According to the requirements of the Guangdong Provincial Government, the quotas for "Hong Kong private cars to enter and leave the Mainland" are mainly allocated to persons and enterprises with official or business needs to cross the boundary.  At present, applicants for such quotas must be enterprises with investment of at least USD 1 million in the non-mountainous areas, or at least USD 0.4 million in the mountainous areas of Mainland, or Hong Kong residents who are deputies to the National and Provincial People's Congress, members of the National and Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, or people with other official appointments. Such vehicles, including HKSAR Government vehicles and those Hong Kong private cars that meet the investment requirement of the Mainland, must be registered and licensed in Hong Kong. There are about 24,000 such vehicles at present.

     Another type of cross-boundary vehicles are those belonging to the Mainland governments, departments directly under the Mainland authorities or some enterprise units. Such vehicles are issued with international circulation permits for use in Hong Kong. There are about 1,900 such vehicles.

     For cross-boundary vehicles registered and licensed in Hong Kong, apart from the vehicle licence fees, the Transport Department shall, in accordance with section 49 of the Road Traffic (Registration and Licensing of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374E), charge a fee for the issue of a closed road permit. The annual fee for a private car is HKD540 (in the case of an application for a closed road permit valid for less than 12 months, a fee equal to one-twelfth of the fee multiplied by the number of months for which the permit is sought, any part of a month counting as one month).

     The Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap 374A) provides that a vehicle issued with an international circulation permit is required to comply with the vehicle construction requirements stipulated under the relevant Convention, e.g. a good braking system, suitable illumination equipment and light signal, etc. The vehicle construction and maintenance requirements as stipulated under Cap 374A are not applicable to a vehicle brought temporarily into Hong Kong and used by virtue of an international circulation permit. For Mainland vehicles currently travelling to Hong Kong under the regular quota system, Transport Department has adopted the same vehicle examination requirement as private cars in Hong Kong, i.e. yearly examination after 6 years.

(f) and (g) Arrangements for Mainland private cars to enter Hong Kong with ad hoc quotas fall under the second phase of the ad hoc quota trial scheme for cross-boundary private cars (the Scheme).  Experts of the governments of Guangdong and Hong Kong will further study and discuss the specific arrangements for the second phase of the Scheme when there is experience in smooth operation after implementing the first phase for a period of time.

     The Administration introduced the idea of the Scheme to the Legislative Council (LegCo) as early as December 2008 in response to a question raised by LegCo Member. At the meeting of the Transport Panel of LegCo on January 23, 2009, we explained the overall situation of regulation of cross boundary vehicles, the future direction of relaxation of the quota system for cross boundary private cars, and reported the progress of discussion with the Guangdong authorities on the ad hoc quota trial scheme. The Scheme would be to relax the existing quota system for private cars in a highly regulated environment to allow some private cars to use the Shenzhen Bay Port to travel between the two places.  It was already made clear at that time that we had reached preliminary agreement with the relevant Guangdong authorities to implement the proposal in two phases, starting with the issue of ad hoc quotas to Hong Kong private cars first, to be followed by Guangdong private cars at a later stage upon satisfactory implementation of the proposal for Hong Kong private cars. Members generally welcomed the proposal of issuing ad hoc quotas. Thereafter, Members have monitored progress by raising questions at LegCo sittings.

     In formulating the arrangements of the Scheme, we adhere to some principles, including :

(a) exercising due care and launching a trial first to ascertain the effects;
(b) introducing the scheme under a highly regulated environment, with road safety and network capacity as the fundamental considerations and taking into account also impact on the environment;
(c) starting with a small number of quotas, which can be adjusted flexibly having regard to special circumstances; and
(d) requiring full details in all applications, which will be carefully vetted and properly screened.

     In formulating the arrangements of the second phase of the Scheme, we will continue to adhere to the above principles, listen to the opinions of the LegCo and members of public, including opinions on other transport arrangements and control measures (e.g. increasing parking areas), and do the job properly.  Legislative amendments are required for implementing the second phase of the Scheme, to provide legal basis for issuing temporary licence/permit and collecting relevant fees. The Government and LegCo can both serve as effective gatekeepers.

Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:03