'Magic' number plates disappear from Hohhot roads

"Magic" number plates that allow unmarked police cars to violate traffic laws have been scrapped by a city in Inner Mongolia after complaints that abuses by officers were putting lives at risk.

The government of the autonomous region's capital Hohhot cancelled all 700 of its "meng-OA" number plates in favor of ordinary registration numbers on April 25, said Yan Bing, chief of the public security bureau of Hohhot.

Local citizens had dubbed them "magic number plates" as meng-OA vehicles were often seen jumping red lights and driving through toll stations without paying, with traffic police usually turning a blind eye.

"Some individuals have even got hold of one through their connections and used them to drive irresponsibly, although the number plates are strictly prohibited on vehicles not owned by the police force," said Yan.

He said the government's decision to scrap the meng-OA number plates was made on March 19 over concerns officers were abusing the privileges they afforded and causing a potential safety hazard.

However, many citizens have questioned the effect of the decision and said officials will simply continue to violate traffic regulations by instead identifying themselves with a special pass attached to the windshield.

"Some police officers just think they are more privileged than other people, that's why they abuse their power whenever they can," said Altai, a researcher from the Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Sciences.

"The government should do more to eliminate thoughts like that rather than simply cancel number plates."

Experts have applauded the move, claiming it will help clean up the police force's image.

In a recent online survey of 1,668 people by Chinese broadcasters Phoenix CNE's on its website, a massive 95 percent were in favor of the cancellation and urged the government to also rid the city of the "semi-official permits and unspoken rules" that allow "well-connected" individuals to break the law.

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