Drivers of private cars who charge passengers for trips could face a maximum fine of 100,000 yuan (US$13,000) in Guangzou, the capital city of Guangdong Province.
After a ban on motorcycles was enforced at the beginning of the year, public transport has come under increasing pressure.
Many people are unable to take buses or taxis during the rush hours.
Owners of private cars have stepped in to relieve the pressure by taking friends and neighbors to work for a fee.
Some solicit passengers on the road or pick up people waiting for taxis.
The drivers are breaking the law as their vehicles are not allowed to be used for commercial purposes.
Moreover, their passengers are not protected by safety regulations as they are with public transport.
Guangzhou transportation administration bureau conducted six campaigns last month, and handed out summonses to 49 private car owners for carrying passengers illegally.
"Some people think picking up friends, taking them to their workplaces, and charging them a few yuan for fuel is reasonable, but they are breaking the law," Chen Zhilian, an officer with the bureau said.
"The driver faces a fine ranging from 30,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan," he said.
The imposition of the law is being met by strong opposition, and has caused controversy in legal circles.
More people today live in the suburbs and work downtown.
They claim paying a few yuan to a friend for transport is cheaper and faster than the buses or taxis. Both parties benefit.
"If drivers charge passengers only the basic costs of his car, such as fuel and toll charges, they should be exempt from punishment," Zhong Qi, a lawyer in Guangzhou said.
"But drivers who charge higher than their basic costs, and are using it as a business, should be punished," he said.
(China Daily June 20, 2007)