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December 30, 2010

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Lawyer sues over plate auctions

A SHANGHAI lawyer is suing the city government in a bid to make officials reveal details of the legal basis for the city's car plate auction system.

The case was heard at Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court yesterday with two officials from the city's legislative affairs office appearing on behalf of the city government.

Si Weijiang, a lawyer with the DeBund Law Offices, said his intention was to ensure the government performed its duties based on the law.

"The auction system is effective in controlling the number of vehicles," he said after the hearing," Si said.

"I hope to push the local legislative body to make a regulation about the system so that it has a legal basis and that the auction income and how it is spent can be made public," he said.

Shanghai's plate auction system has long been challenged by the public with many saying they don't understand why they must pay tens of thousands of yuan for what is just a piece of metal. Many also want to know what the government does with the huge amount of income the auction system generates.

Si said he asked the municipal government to disclose the legal grounds for the system on June 24.

He received a reply on July 15 saying the system was carried out based on the Road Traffic Safety Law and the Auction Law. The two laws are published on the official website of the National People's Congress, he was told, and the reply advised him to check the website.

Si said it was a perfunctory reply and he couldn't find any legal basis for the system from the two laws. "On the contrary, the two laws just prove the system is illegal," he said.

The traffic safety law doesn't mention the plate quota or an auction system, he said. The Auction Law only regulates auction activity and doesn't clarify that the government can charge plate users via an auction, he added.

He was now asking the government to point to the exact clauses that supported the system.

Song Jian, one of the government officials, told the hearing that the two laws were the legal basis for the system and said Si hadn't asked about clauses in his June 24 application.

"We made the reply following legal procedures. The plaintiff's suit shouldn't be supported by law," he said.

The court didn't announce a verdict.


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