Excessive fine by police on dirty car plate triggers online outcry
Screeshot of the video in which a traffic police officer was explaining traffic regulation in front of a camera on December 27, 2017 in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning province.
Three Chinese traffic police officers from Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning province, have been given official administrative warnings after a video showing them charging motorists for dirty or unclear license plates circulated on China’s social media on Thursday. 
Traffic officers have fined drivers in Shenyang 200 yuan in recent weeks for failing to keep their plates “complete and clear,” according to Liao Shen Wan Bao, a local newspaper. 
The video clip which was part of a news program produced by a TV station in Liaoning province was uploaded by a Chinese netizen and was soon circulated on China’s social media like Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter and WeChat, a messaging app owned by Tencent. 
The video was posted on January 8 by a Weibo user called Fangmuduo and has been viewed for more than 8 million times and also forwarded by several Weibo accounts of official media like CCTV, The Beijing News and The Paper.  
The video shows a driver complaining about being fined just because some of the paint was chipped off his plates, though the numbers were still clearly visible. 
The driver asks the police: “What’s wrong with my car plate?” And a police officer tells the man, sternly and objectively, “According to China’s Road Traffic Safety Law, as a driver you have an obligation to keep your plate complete and stop the plate from getting dirty.”
The police officer also quoted China’s traffic law as saying that a car plate should be kept complete and clear, and drivers who cover the plate on purpose would be fined 200 yuan with a deduction of 12 points on their driving license. 
Drivers in China usually get a deduction of points based on a 12-point evaluation system once they violate traffic regulations, and a deduction of 12 points represents the highest level of punishment in the score system. 
After the video went viral, many netizens said that only after they had seen the video twice did they realize what the police officer was charging the driver for. 
“I really have no idea what does ‘on purpose’ mean, and why the car plate in question was considered not clear?” commented a netizen on Weibo. 
“This absolutely has no difference to robbing in daylight,” another said.
The city’s traffic authority issued a statement on Friday confirming that there was “inappropriateness in fining” and saying that three officers involved in the issue were to be disciplined and the driver’s fine withdrawn. 
An unnamed member of staff at the Shenyang municipal traffic police authority told Thepaper.cn it was not clear how a car plate can be adjudged “complete and clear”. Instead, he suggested people should buy a new one. 
Photo: Liao Shen Wan Bao
According to Liao Shen Wan Bao, the crackdown on the so-called “dirty plate” has prompted many drivers to go local vehicle management office to change their plates. Long queues could be seen at a vehicle management office in Shenyang as drivers tried to buy new plates for 100 yuan, according to the newspaper. 
Besides the overzealous fine for “dirty” plates, another reason that the case triggered a public outcry is the way the traffic officer charged the driver and how he justified his behavior by citing law, while obviously caviling. 
“The most ridiculous part is that the police officer is looking so serious and solemn when he speaks in front of the camera with a microphone,” said one Weibo user. 
“If you want to fine those drivers, just do it. But why did you do it on a TV program?” another commented. 
“The Shenyang traffic police and relevant department should not avoid responsibility for responding to the driver’s questions, and those who think they too had been fined excessively should also have the right to take legal action,” said the Global Times in an article published on WeChat. 
The northeast part of China, the country’s rust belt, has been frequently mocked in recent years, along with its struggling economy, political scandals, and falsified economic figures. With China’s ongoing efforts to make this region “great again”, economists have proposed solutions, and the central government has also rolled out various plans to revitalize it. Among the plans include one to link northeastern provinces with more developed coastal regions, so as to boost more investment projects in the region and help it benefit form more successful experiences. 
In parallel with official policies, mocking, scoffing and making complaints have usually been China’s millions of netizens’ way to express concerns over how the rust belt would finally get rid of the quagmire. 
“Look, this is the reason why you should not do investment in northeast China” was the most posted comments on social media in this issue.
“That people on the whole broadcasting chain - from the police officers, the cameraman, to the TV station - were not aware of what they were doing shows how serious the problem is in this area” has also been liked more than 4,000 times on Weibo. 


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