Beijing's military forces have been ordered to impose stricter monitoring of their vehicles and harsher penalties on drivers who flout traffic laws and regulations.
The four general departments of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) -- the Headquarters of the General Staff, General Political Department, General Logistics Department and General Armament Department – are conducting a joint campaign to raise driving standards in the capital, according to the Beijing News on Sunday.
The campaign, due to run till the end of the year, also targets leading organs of the Communist Party and government, said the report.
These bodies are usually equipped with cars bearing military license plates, indicating the rank of their owners or passengers.
"Frequent violations of traffic laws and other regulations have tarnished the army's image among the people," according to an announcement made by the four PLA general departments.
In China, military cars are legally entitled to privileges, including exemption from road tolls, but are often seen abusing said privileges by speeding, erratically changing lanes and running red lights. In some cases, police have found illegal or fake military license plates used by law breakers.
Police officers are usually reluctant to pull over drivers of military cars for fear of their military and political standings.
Beijing's military personnel as well as the Party and government should strengthen the management of vehicles and set a good example on the road, said the announcement.
The announcement failed to elaborate on the penalties military units or drivers of military vehicles might face if convicted.
It also asked for closer cooperation between military units and law enforcement departments to get bogus military cars off the road.
A number of military plates, which differ from ordinary vehicle plates in color and numbers, have been issued against regulations to the public, exempting them from road tolls and parking fees.
The announcement ordered a thorough check of all military vehicles and the revocation of illegally-granted plates and licenses.
The four departments initiated the campaign in response to public complaints.
"Troops stationed in Beijing have made progress toward standardization and modernization, but loopholes in management, idleness and demoralization among a few military units are eroding the army's reputation," said the announcement.
The campaign has the twin aims of improving military vehicle management and of schooling all military personnel in better understanding areas of public interest and etiquette.
(Xinhua News Agency September 4, 2006)