More in Daily Special: New military plates highlight anti-corruption
Hunan Province has launched a crackdown on vehicles using fake military license plates, and banned luxury military vehicles, sparking public debate over how effectively the campaign will tackle abuse of military privilege.
"Vehicles made by luxury automakers, such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Maserati, Jaguar, Land Rover and Phaeton, are banned from using military license plates. Vehicles with military license plates are also banned from parking at star-rated hotels, high-end restaurants, entertainment venues and tourist spots," the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald reported, adding the regulation came into effect on Sunday.
But some Web users slammed the regulations as being too weak, arguing offenders could avoid detection by simply removing their military license plates or using civilian license plates on luxury military vehicles.
Yu Jianrong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who spearheaded a campaign earlier this year to expose luxury military vehicles, took to his Sina Weibo account to denounce Hunan's crackdown.
"How shameless is this? Does this mean that if you are not using military license plates, you have the right to use taxpayers' money earmarked for military spending to buy luxury cars?" he wrote in a post uploaded Sunday morning.
Private use of military vehicles has attracted public ire amid a string of notorious cases. On February 13, a car belonging to the Lanzhou Military Area Command ran on the pedestrian street in front of a temple of the ancient city of Pingyao, Shanxi Province, the People's Daily reported.
In June 2009, joint raids resulted in the arrests of 37 suspects and seizure of 250 fake military license plates plus more than 2,000 semi-finished fake plates in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Song Zhongping, a well-known military analyst, welcomed the crackdown, saying it would result in stricter supervision of military vehicles.
"It's a step in the right direction, but the solution to quashing abuse of military license plates is removing the privileges attached to the plates during peacetime," Song said.
Song conceded some luxury military cars belong to the army, and legitimate military plates were often abused by people with strong connections.
Vehicles with military license plates are exempt from paying highway tolls and drivers can more easily avoid paying fines from police when caught breaking traffic rules, Song said, noting some even use their vehicles to smuggle prohibited goods because vehicles with military license plates are usually spared inspection by authorities.