Monday, October 6, 2008

Beijing restarts personal license plates

China's capital readopted a program on Monday allowing car owners to have personalized license plates, but clamping down on the flashy and crude picks such as "UFO", "SEX 001" and "FBI 007" produced by some people six years ago.

A Beijing resident became the city's luckiest car owner when he secured the plate reading "NV8888" at 8:30 a.m. Monday after queuing for three days with his family at a car registration center of the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau.

He was followed by another Beijinger, Du Fei, who got "NA9999."

Many Chinese have demonstrated their fervor over lucky numbers as usual, picking as many eights, sixes or nines as possible in their license plates.

Eight in Chinese is pronounced in the same way as "fortune," six is associated with "smooth" or "propitious," while nine has the same sound as "eternity."

Chinese traditionally avoid the numbers three and four, which sound like "dissolve" and "die" respectively.

The seven car registration centers opened at 8:30 a.m., but at the registration headquarters in southern Beijing alone, at least 130 new cars had lined up along a police cordon that had been set up over the weekend. Many had waited for at least 48 hours. "I came here on Friday and my whole family took turns to wait here," said Du Fei at the head of the queue.

Retired Chinese soccer team striker Gao Hongbo was also among the early birds, picking his desired license plate reading "N168B0."

The registration headquarters alone issued nearly 400 plates in two hours. Several thousand will be issued across the city on Monday.

Beijing introduced the "pick-your-own" license plates for the first time in 2002. The system lasted for only 10 days. About 23,000 plates were issued before it was suspended amid complaints over picks that were rude and crude, including "USA 911" and "TMD"-- representing the first letters in a common Chinese swear word.

The Beijing Traffic Management Bureau says such picks won't be possible under the new system, which limits car owners freedom to only four digits and one English letter.

The first two slots in the seven-digit plates are set with the Chinese character for Beijing, followed by "N" for automobiles in the eight urban districts, or "Y" for those registered in the outer districts and counties.

Beijing's automobile fleet has exceeded 3.4 million, with more than 1,000 new cars hitting the road daily.

Source: Xinhua

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