BEIJING - About 100,000 more residents entered the latest round of the capital city's vehicle-license lottery than had in February, even amid revelations that winners of previous lottery rounds had not taken advantage of the opportunities they had to buy cars.
A total of 397,543 qualified candidates took part in the city's third license-plate lottery, which was held this month, according to figures released by the Beijing municipal commission of transport on Friday. The participants will compete in a draw on Saturday for the right to obtain one of 17,600 license plates Beijing issues each month.
In February, 292,280 people had taken part in the lottery, giving each participant only a 6 percent chance of winning. The odds have narrowed even further in March - to a mere 4 percent.
According to the lottery's rules, applicants who have failed to win in the past two months will be automatically entered in the latest drawing, a policy that has greatly added to the total number of participants.
Traffic-clogged Beijing began using the lottery on Jan 1 in an attempt at controlling the number of vehicles on the streets and easing gridlock. Although 35,200 people won the right to buy a car in the first two drawings, only a small number of them have actually made good on it.
Earlier reports said about 3,400 winners - fewer than 20 percent of the total - bought new cars in the ten days following the first drawing.
Luo Ting, a 28-year-old Beijing resident, said her good luck in the first plate lottery in January brought unexpected troubles.
Although not in urgent need of a car, Luo decided to apply for a license plate out of a fear that obtaining one would become even more difficult in the future.
"I didn't expect I would be among the first batch of winners," she said, adding that she has to buy a car as soon as possible because the right to obtain a license plate expires within six months.
She said she is reluctant to make a purchase largely because of the current high prices of cars.
"The new rule has caused the car market to shrink and dealers aren't offering many discounts," she said.
A salesman surnamed Yan in the Huilonguan area, Changping district, told China Daily that few deals are being made with lottery winners these days.
"The members of a family will all apply for a plate in order to increase their chances of winning, but only one car will be purchased in the end," he said, adding that a frequent wasting of such opportunities will depress car sales.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Beijing residents have been swarming to other provinces out of desperation to get license plates, according to previous reports.
"Waiting to win a lottery will take too much time, so I decided to apply for a plate in Hebei province," a woman surnamed Fu was quoted by China National Radio as saying.
Yang Hongshan, deputy dean of the department of urban planning at Renmin University of China, said the defects in the lottery system are more obvious now that the system has been in place for three months.
"The problem is that real demands aren't being satisfied, while people with few intentions of buying cars are feeling compelled to enroll in the lottery," he said.