Ta Kung Pao is a Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing newspaper. This article is now widely shared after the announcement that Mainland Chinese self-drive tour is going to be allowed in Hong Kong.
Feb 7th 2011
For tourists that have just arrived in Hong Kong, especially the booming Mainland Chinese “individual visit scheme” tourists, they must be curious about the exciting and unique transportation system in there. Besides ding-ding producing, antique feeling and century-old trams, on the major roads and small lanes there are European style double-decker buses, and on the Victoria Harbour there are spacious wooden ferries shuttling between her. Tourists who observe carefully must be able to find peculiarities in the transports and traffic rules of this metropolis. Indeed, they are different from Mainland China and even the rest of the world. The driving seat of Hong Kong car is on the right front and the traffic drive on the left as adaptation. Hongkonger who are born and raised there are accustomed to it and they see it as natural. They call it “right (*wheel) car” and use it to differentiate the usually seen car that is with wheel on the left and driven towards the right.
There is no reason for Hong Kong not to follow the trend of the world
Hong Kong have been opened to trade for a century. The historic record of her first car and road has yet been recorded in detail. However, it must have been very long as the history of Hong Kong as a trading port is long too. The peculiarities of Hong Kong transports and traffic rules are from Britain. British brought their own rules, which were according to their local custom and might be very advanced at that period, to the underdeveloped Hong Kong. Therefore, Hong Kong developed her own traffic rules and transports based on them. Now, the intricate urban streets, the communities connecting roads and the border-crossing human and goods transporting corridors are all connected to every corner of Hong Kong. These are like the veins of “the Pearl of the Orient”; These are like nerves inside the most developed economy in Asia. These are dazzling.
Towards this “right (*wheel) car” phenomenon, many people don’t care about it. Even for new Mainland immigrant drivers, they don’t think these “peculiarities” will affect them as long as they pay more attentions. Sometimes, we may think these peculiarities are like one is accustomed to hold chopsticks with left hand. Since it doesn’t affect others, there is no reason to change this special habit. However, Hong Kong “right (*wheel) car” phenomenon is not like the problem of holding chopsticks with left hand. In the past, there were some people who are enthusiastic about social affairs requested to change it. The request for such change reached its climax before and after the Handover and then died down. The key to the problem is that it will be a big event. If we wanted to change the status quo, not only would the spending be unpredictable. but there were no good starting point. Why would we asking trouble for ourselves?
Even though the voice for changing the status quo is not big and there is no social consensus, the reason behind the change is very simple. First, “right (*wheel) car” is a remnant of the Imperialist and it is becoming rare in Worldwide. Even the veteran imperialist, Britain, have followed the world trend and returned to the right road using the international standard which is wheel on the left and driving towards the right side. As “Pearl of the Orient”, Hong Kong have no reason not to follow. Second, as the number of “right (*wheel) car” decreases gradually, the production of such car will require special process. Not only is the production of it complicated, but it will be pricier than the other car under the same condition. Third, since the Handover, the exchanges between Hong Kong and Mainland China have became increasingly close. As traffic connections and transports traveling between two places are increasing, therefore the status quo must be changed to adapt the changing environment and provide convenience and safety to the crowd that travel between two places, especially for drivers.
In the past, “same ruts for carriages” happened.
In fact, pursuing for consistency in road traffic in regions with frequent economic exchanges was not only the expectation of modern elites. It is a universal law. After Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified the Central Plains, he carried out a series of reformations, among which is the most famous “same ruts for carriages, same script for writing”. “Same ruts for carriages”, which stipulated the distance between two wheels of a carriage to be corrected to 6 feet and hence the tracks of all the carriages would be the same, is to end the nonuniform traffic system before the conquest. In this way, it helped the flow of traffic of all regions. Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s approach undoubtedly shows the dictating side of Qin. However, undeniably, there was an urgent need for social development under the productivity of that era. Today, the exchange of world traffic has already been very developed. The problem of Hong Kong “right (*wheel) car” certainly is not of political concern. As a historical legacy, it can even be a unique scenery that makes tourists curious. However, the economic aspect of it can not be gone unconsidered.
As the economies of Mainland China and Hong Kong are integrating, and the development of Hong Kong has been included in the “12th 5-Year-Plan”, the merging of Shenzhen and Hong Kong to become a “living circle within an hour” has grown from a concept into a reality. Under this background, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail project will be finished in a few years, and the exchanges of land transport between Shenzhen and Hong Kong will certainly be surging. Right now, besides goods transporting cross-border big container trucks, the number of private vehicle that can be driven between Guangdong and Hong Kong are increasing. Recently, experts called for the immediate arrangement that allows Hong Kong cars to enter Mainland China. Clearly, the restriction of Hong Kong cars to Mainland China are being lifted. Simultaneously, the number of passenger and commercial vehicles from Mainland China are going to increase predictably. Therefore, it is natural for Hong Kong to give up its old custom, “right (*wheel) car”, and change her traffic rules.
Implementing from outside to inside, zone-by-zone
In fact, changing Hong Kong traffic rules and switching from “right car” to “left car” is not complicated. The changing of traffic rules can be implemented from outside to inside and in zone-by-zone fashion. Border and near Mainland China regions such as Sheung Shui and Lok Ma Chau can implement the changes first, and then pushing the changes from city outskirts to the city. From now on, gradually allowing “left car” to be on the road of Hong Kong and appropriately restricting the number of “right car” until they totally vanish. Certainly, it is a very long process that will probably last 10 to 20 years. However, the result can be foreseen and big spending is avoided since it takes a longer period of time.
All in all, if we are willing to take the first step and accumulate experiences, gradually let the “right car” driving out of Hong Kong, the effort we need to spend would be reduced by half.
On Feb 10th 2011, a group of 20 people protested inside the meeting room of North Point government offices, and they found a map “Major Transport Networks in Shenzhen” in which a large area of Hong Kong is covered.
Comments on Ta Kung Pao
wakuku: “There is no reason for Hong Kong not to follow the trend” Sino-British Joint Declaration clearly says there are two systems under one country and Hong Kong are allowed to have high degree of autonomy. If everything is based on “there is no reason not to follow the trend”, doesn’t it mean that “there is no reason” for Hong Kong not to follow China? Doesn’t it mean that “there is no reason for China to have two systems”? Does that mean overflowing the Sino-British Joint Declaration? Is this Hong Kong ruled by people or law? A trend is made artificially. If everything were according to the “big trend”, then why didn’t the Communist Party follow the big trend using traditional Chinese character? During the rule of Kuomingtang, worldwide Chinese had to recognise and accept their own ancestors. However, why did (the Communist Party) “destroy the old and establish the news” and overflowed their ancestors?
buhin: Even though there is freedom of speech, lies should not be fabricated. Britain have never been changed to “left drive”, which isn’t a world standard either. Please make sure if everything is right before you publish it, dear editor. Thank you!
****I will post more comments from everywhere. Many people wanted this article to be translated into English and therefore I tried my best to do it.****