The photograph below shows a senior Hong Kong government official’s car parked illegally outside the Hong Kong Club at lunchtime. It was sent by a reader who photographed it on May 3, and accompanied the photograph with the observation, “How nice to see AM 9 illegally parked on a double yellow line all because it’s arrogant driver was attending a private lunch at Hong Kong Club. “There was a time when ministers or LegCo members set an example for the rest of society to follow.  Now they are self-important jokes who see themselves above the law.”

howard winn parking

As trivial as it may seem to many, people get highly exercised about illegal car parking. Some for the reasons mentioned by our reader above, others because when they see police officers and traffic wardens walk past illegally parked cars, they believe it encourages low level law breaking.

The random enforcement of the law on parking by the authorities, which requires no effort to detect since its happening right in front of their noses, encourages ambivalence in the mind of the public as to whether to break the law or not.

But slackness in this area can have unintended consequences. Unlicensed food hawkers in Mong Kok over Chinese New Year have traditionally been allowed to operate on this festive occasion even though they are breaking the law. The police and Food and Environmental Health officials have generally, though not always, turned a blind eye. This year for whatever reason, the authorities decided to enforce the law, and since the hawkers had reportedly already paid the local triads their fee, they felt aggrieved and the situation escalated. If it was generally understood that the law would be enforced, then this situation wouldn’t have developed.

Photo: StandNews.

There is so much that can easily be done with technology to control the problem of illegal parking. In much the same way that speeding cars are photographed and then fined, cameras can be set up at blackspots. Indeed, they are probably already in place. Offending motorists could then be sent a photograph and fined. There are many ways of dealing with it, but the root problem for its continued existence, despite popular annoyance, appears to be the lack interest in the problem by the authorities.

These are same people, as we saw last week during Zhang Dejiang’s visit, that will go to absurd lengths to achieve an outcome which interests them. CY Leung said publicly he had left it to the police to judge how to deal with security for the visit. But we all know this is untrue. Senior police officers contacted by HowardWinnReports admitted that the police had deployed a ridiculously high number of police. “But orders had come down from the top.”

Zhang Dejiang's motorcade driving opposite direction.
Zhang Dejiang’s motorcade driving opposite direction.

If only Zhang Dejiang had let it be known that CY Leung’s re-election prospects depended on his ability to tackle Hong Kong’s illegal parking problem, then the streets would-be cleared in a flash.

Howard Winn has been a journalist for more than 25 years working mostly in Asia. He was until recently Lai See columnist for the South China Morning Post, a column that focused on the lighter side of business and more. He was previously Deputy Editor and Business Editor of the Hong Kong Standard. His work has been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. His latest work can be found at