BEIJING - The capital's transport authorities said they received three times the monthly quota for new car license plate applications in the first two days of the year, as the city has adopted measures restricting plate issuances to ease traffic.
The website for applications, www.bjhjyd.gov.cn, had received nearly 60,000 online submissions as of 11 am on Sunday. Authorities said the number exceeded expectations.
Applicants are competing for the first 20,000 plates to be issued through a lottery system in January.
Beijing had decided to issue only 240,000 new license plates this year- that is one-third of 2010's total - to ease gridlock. Individual automobile buyers will receive a monthly average of 88 percent, or 17,600, of the plates.
The new measures stipulate a driver may only register one car.
Eligible individuals include local residency permit (hukou) holders and foreigners who have lived in the city for at least a year. Residents without Beijing hukou must provide proof they have paid social security fees and income taxes for five consecutive years.
Anyone who provides false information will be banned from applying for three years and must assume legal responsibility, the application website said.
Upon submitting their applications, candidates receive a code, and their qualifications will be examined. Qualification results will be released on Jan 25, the day before the lottery. Individuals can also apply at transport departments' application offices from Jan 4.
Residents can apply anytime before midnight on Jan 8.
"I finished the online application around 2 am on Saturday," Beijing resident Wu Bin told China Daily.
"Although I know thousands of people will compete for the very limited number of new car license plates, I still want to try my luck or I'll have no chance at all."
Individuals can apply once a month. Those who do not win the lottery will automatically be included in the following month's draw, the measures said.
As for the remaining 12 percent of the quota, 2 percent will be available for commercial use while 10 percent will go to companies and government institutions. Enterprises can apply once every two months, the rules said. Lottery winners may not transfer their registration rights to others.
"The ban on transferring registration opportunities will effectively deter speculation, in which scalpers sell them for high prices," independent analyst Jia Xinguang told China Daily.
Beijing's congestion has worsened in recent years. There were 4.8 million vehicles on the capital's roads as of Dec 29, which was 700,000 more than at the beginning of 2010. There were only 2.6 million vehicles in 2005, government figures showed.
A global survey conducted by IBM last year found Beijing was tied with Mexico City for the "world's worst commute".
The car registration restrictions may be good news for frustrated drivers but not for dealers.
Li Hao, a sales manager for Chinese automaker Chery, said he had not sold a car since Dec 24, when the rules took effect.
"We definitely won't make money this year," Li said. His showroom was empty except for a few bored-seeming sales assistants and a handful of customers finalizing earlier purchases.
"Our income and sales will definitely drop, and I'm worried about my own income and job," Li said. "Every salesperson is thinking about this problem."
Beijing authorities announced on Dec 23 that any car sold after that date would not be granted a license plate until Jan 1, when car buyers could apply for registration.
AP and AFP contributed to this story.