China cracks down on military car abuse
If you've visited China in recent years you may have noticed swarms of luxury cars storming through traffic with hidden sirens and flashing lights.
Usually blacked out Audi saloons, they are in fact military cars – denoted by their special number plates and used for all manner of official government business.
However, under the new image-conscious government of President Xi Jinping, military officials are being banned from using the plates on luxury cars, thanks to cases of owners flouting traffic rules and avoiding road toll charges, under the protection the plate offers.
There are even reports of military number plates being auctioned off to civilians.
China's state news agency Xinhua, suggests the use of luxury cars and rule-breaking creates a negative image for the Chinese government: "In recent years, irregularities in the use of military cars have drawn public attention. Some internet users have posted snapshots on popular Twitter-like microblogs featuring limos with military license plates."
Under new rules, military plates will be banned on cars from luxury brands such as Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, Lincoln and Cadillac models. The Audi Q7 SUV and Volkswagen Phaeton limousine were also singled out.
More generally, military plates are to be prohibited on cars with engines larger than 3.0-litres or that have a value over $73,000 (£47,000).
The army is to issue brand new plates and collect all those previously in use, in a bid to stop counterfeiters.