Vehicle registration plates of Hong Kong

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In Hong Kong, vehicle registration marks are managed by the Transport Department. The physical number plates are not provided by the government, but are made by garages to the order of the car owner.

Hong Kong number plates as observed in 2009.
Mandatory cross-border Guangdong plate to display when a Hong Kong registered vehicle enters Guangdong Province, mainland China.

Overview[edit]

Each vehicle must display two number plates, one at the front and one at the rear of the vehicle. The front plate has black characters on a white background, and the rear plate has black characters on a yellow background. The height of the letters and numerals are not less than 8 cm (3.1 in) and not more than 11 cm (4.3 in). The plates should comply with British Standard B.S. 145a and have permanently marked on the plate the specification number "B.S. AU 145a".

Numbering system[edit]

The Lexus LS 600h L bearing the HKSAR emblem in place of a registration plate, the official transport of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong

Vehicles of the Chief Executive do not have registration plates. Instead, they have the Emblem of Hong Kong in front and at the rear. During British administration, the vehicle of the Governor bore the St Edward's Crown emblem.[1]

Usual numbers[edit]

Chinese border-crossing plate displayed on a vehicle below a standard Hong Kong plate.

Most car numbers consist of a two-letter prefix followed by a number between 1 and 9999 without leading zeroes. Some car numbers do not have a letter prefix. The letters "I", "O" and "Q" are not used to avoid ambiguity. Some examples are 9999, CP1, FP507, and LW2468.

The very first numbers ever allocated (1-9999) have no prefixes. First "HK" and then "XX" were the first two prefixes allocated. Then the sequence went as follows: "AA", "AB", "AC", ... "AZ", "BB", "BC"... "BZ", "CA", "CB", "CC", ... . It is worth noting that there was no "BA" prefix allocated at that time because the government thought that it would get mixed up with "AB" and so did not allocate the "BA" prefix. Another speculation is that "BA" would stand for British Army, thus this prefix was skipped. For a similar reason, "BF" (which could stand for British Forces) was also skipped. But they changed their minds to allocate "CA" prefix after "BZ", and in 2003, "BA" and "BF" prefixes were available for auction.

The prefixes "FU" and "FV" were also issued out of turn. These are typically issued to vehicles with primary registration in Mainland China and are used as their "cross-border" plates while in Hong Kong. Some "DW" and "EW" registration marks are also used for this purpose.

Shortly prior to the handover of Hong Kong on 1 July 1997, the Advanced Detachment of the People's Liberation Army entered Hong Kong. The vehicles of the Advanced Detachment were assigned a series of "AD" registrations for their Hong Kong registrations. These vehicles also displayed their Mainland Chinese registrations whilst in Hong Kong.

Some prefixes are reserved and have special meanings.

As of April 2014, the current allocated prefix is "SR".

Motorcycles[edit]

Formerly, motorcycles used a different set of registration marks. Like the marks for cars, the very first numbers had no prefixes. Later, marks with a single-letter prefix were issued. For example, "A281", "B367".

The separate issuance system of registration marks for motorcycles has been discontinued and merged with the main system. Some registered motorcycles still bear the early marks. Hence, a unique registration mark without letter prefix could be found on two different types of vehicles.

Unusual numbers[edit]

One-letter prefixes[edit]

  • "A" prefix for ambulances of the Fire Services Department of the government
  • "F" prefix for fire engines and other vehicles of the Fire Services Department of the government
  • "T" prefix for use by the motor trade, especially on vehicles that are still unlicenced. These plates are unusual in that they are not specific to any vehicle. They are red-on-white and usually displayed in a plastic holder attached temporarily to the vehicle by rubber straps. The 'T' is followed by up to five numerals.

Special prefixes[edit]

  • "AM" is reserved for government vehicles. It has been suggested that this arises from AdMinistration. However, the British Hong Kong Government did not refer to itself as 'the Administration' but simply as 'Government'. Another theory is that as the A series was being issued, it was decided that a specific two-letter identifier was required for Government vehicles. AM was the next in line, so therefore chosen for Government vehicles.
  • "LC" is reserved for Legislative Council vehicles.
  • "ZG" (for ZGǎng 駐港 which means "stationed in Hong Kong") is for the People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong. ZG plates are not issued with the standard fonts seen on civilian plates. The font used is the same as that of Mainland Chinese plates. However, the plates are still black-on-white in the front and black-on-yellow in the rear.
  • formerly "UC" was reserved for the then Urban Council.
  • formerly "RC" was reserved for the then Regional Council. Now available to civilian vehicles.
  • "HA" is used for vehicles of the Hospital Authority, but is also available to public.

Letter suffix[edit]

Letters-only[edit]

These are specific car numbers with no numbers, simply letters only

Other unusual numbers[edit]

VV-series plate.
  • "VV", "VW" for small vehicles on narrow paths where usual vehicles are prohibited. The numerals may have leading zero(es), a vehicle with a plate "VV 002224" was found in Inspiration Lake Recreation Centre. They are used on Lantau Island and Lamma Island to take provisions from the wharf to the villages. VV stands for "village vehicle".
  • The registration marks used by vehicles of British Army in Hong Kong used the same format as British military vehicles elsewhere: two numbers, then two letters, and two numbers. For example, "15KL44".

Special registration marks[edit]

A car number is a special registration mark if

  • it has no prefix; or
  • its numerals are any of the following:
    • (1-digit numbers) 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (1 is reserved number for the Commissioner of Police)
    • (two repeated digits) 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99
    • (three repeated digits) 111, 222, 333, 444, 555, 666, 777, 888, 999
    • (four repeated digits) 1111, 2222, 3333, 4444, 5555, 6666, 7777, 8888, 9999
    • (multiples of 10) 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90
    • (multiples of 100) 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900
    • (multiples of 1000) 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, 9000
    • 123, 234, 345, 456, 567, 678, 789
    • 1234, 2345, 3456, 4567, 5678, 6789
    • (other two digit) 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 89, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98
    • (two double digits) 1100, 1122, 1133, 1144, 1155, 1166, 1177, 1188, 1199, 2200, 2211, 2233, 2244, 2255, 2266, 2277, 2288, 2299, 3300, 3311, 3322, 3344, 3355, 3366, 3377, 3388, 3399, 4400, 4411, 4422, 4433, 4455, 4466, 4477, 4488, 4499, 5500, 5511, 5522, 5533, 5544, 5566, 5577, 5588, 5599, 6600, 6611, 6622, 6633, 6644, 6655, 6677, 6688, 6699, 7700, 7711, 7722, 7733, 7744, 7755, 7766, 7788, 7799, 8800, 8811, 8822, 8833, 8844, 8855, 8866, 8877, 8899, 9900, 9911, 9922, 9933, 9944, 9955, 9966, 9977, 9988
    • (4-digit palindromes) 1001, 1221, 1331, 1441, 1551, 1661, 1771, 1881, 1991, 2002, 2112, 2332, 2442, 2552, 2662, 2772, 2882, 2992, 3003, 3113, 3223, 3443, 3553, 3663, 3773, 3883, 3993, 4004, 4114, 4224, 4334, 4554, 4664, 4774, 4884, 4994, 5005, 5115, 5225, 5335, 5445, 5665, 5775, 5885, 5995, 6006, 6116, 6226, 6336, 6446, 6556, 6776, 6886, 6996, 7007, 7117, 7227, 7337, 7447, 7557, 7667, 7887, 7997, 8008, 8118, 8228, 8338, 8448, 8558, 8668, 8778, 8998, 9009, 9119, 9229, 9339, 9449, 9559, 9669, 9779, 9889
    • (3-digit palindromes) 101, 121, 131, 141, 151, 161, 171, 181, 191, 202, 212, 232, 242, 252, 262, 272, 282, 292, 303, 313, 323, 343, 353, 363, 373, 383, 393, 404, 414, 424, 434, 454, 464, 474, 484, 494, 505, 515, 525, 535, 545, 565, 575, 585, 595, 606, 616, 626, 636, 646, 656, 676, 686, 696, 707, 717, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, 787, 797, 808, 818, 828, 838, 848, 858, 868, 878, 998, 909, 919, 929, 939, 949, 959, 969, 979, 989
    • (repeated two digits) 1010, 1212, 1313, 1414, 1515, 1616, 1717, 1818, 1919, 2020, 2121, 2323, 2424, 2525, 2626, 2727, 2828, 2929, 3030, 3131, 3232, 3434, 3535, 3636, 3737, 3838, 3939, 4040, 4141, 4242, 4343, 4545, 4646, 4747, 4848, 4949, 5050, 5151, 5252, 5353, 5454, 5656, 5757, 5858, 5959, 6060, 6161, 6262, 6363, 6464, 6565, 6767, 6868, 6969, 7070, 7171, 7272, 7373, 7474, 7575, 7676, 7878, 7979, 8080, 8181, 8282, 8383, 8484, 8585, 8686, 8787, 8989, 9090, 9191, 9292, 9393, 9494, 9595, 9696, 9797, 9898

Although unlisted above, some traditional lucky numbers may be reserved, especially numbers that contain 3 or 8, which are pronounced in Cantonese similarly to words that mean "long life" and "prosperity" respectively. For example, 168 is always a reserved number since its pronunciation in Cantonese means "Rich all-time".

Lucky numbers are allocated only after sale by public auction which takes place from time to time. The proceeds of the auction goes to the Government Lotteries Fund to be used for charitable purposes.

Auction of numbers[edit]

From 1973, the Transport Department of the Hong Kong government conducts auctions to sell numbers. Currently, auctions are usually on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays, and there are about two auctions per month. Numbers sold must be assigned to a car registered in the name of the buyer of the number within 12 months from the date of auction. The car can be an existing car of the buyer, or a car purchased from someone else after the auction, or a brand new car to be purchased after the auction. The Transport Department can advise whether a number has been allocated.

Auction of special registration marks[edit]

A special registration mark obtained in an auction is not transferable, that is to say, the number can be used only on vehicles registered under the name of the buyer. Transferring a special registration mark from one vehicle to another is permitted provided that they are both owned by the same person. Sale or transfer of vehicles bearing a special registration mark to someone else would lose that special registration mark. If the buyer is assigned the special registration mark to a vehicle, and later dies, the special registration mark cannot be transferred together with the vehicle to his heirs. Therefore, it is very important to consider in whose name one should buy a special registration mark in an auction. The use of a limited liability company as the buyer gets around the non-transferrable restriction because of its perpetual succession and the ability to transfer the company shares.

Reserving numbers for auction[edit]

Except with "AM" or "LC" prefixes, any unallocated usual numbers may be reserved for auction, provided it has an earlier prefix in the sequence, or the current prefix, or the next immediate prefix. For example, if the current prefix is "LX", then a number with a prefix "AA", "AB", ..."AZ", "BA", ... "LX", or "LY" may be reserved for auction. Numbers having no prefix or a "XX" prefix may also be reserved for auction. It is doubtful whether numbers with the "ZG" prefix may be reserved for auction after the prefix runs to "ZF". To reserve a non-special registration mark for auction, one needs to pay a deposit of HK$1000. The minimum price for the number is also HK$1000. If the number is successfully bid for by a person other than the person who reserved the number, their deposit is refunded. If no one else bids at the auction, the number is sold to the person who reserved the number, for HK$1000. If it is a special registration mark, there is no deposit to pay, and the minimum price will be set by the Transport Department but will be higher than HK$1000.

Personalised Vehicle Registration Marks Scheme[edit]

A car with a license plate distributed through the scheme

The Personalised Vehicle Registration Marks Scheme was adopted since 2006 to allow creation of numbers with up to 8 characters (including letters and/or numbers). The letters "I", "O" and "Q" are banned from use in the new scheme, with the former two letters officially recognised as numbers "1" and "0" respectively. Since "I" and "O" look identical to "1" and "0" under the standard font type used on Hong Kong licence plates, phrases like "SIU SIU" and "I LOVE U" can be printed on the plates, although they are officially recognised as "S1U S1U" and "1 L0VE U".

The numbers under this scheme are auctioned for a minimum of HK$5000. Although drivers are usually granted their choice of plate, obtaining a unique or easily-recognised plate can be very competitive. For example, the licence place I LOVE U was sold at a charity auction for HK$1.4 million.[2] The first PVRMS auction was held on 16 September 2006.

Owners of number 1 to 10[edit]

The licence plate "1" is reserved for the Commissioner of Police, while plate numbers '2' to '10' have all been sold at auction. Some of the owners are Hong Kong celebrities. The current owners of number plates 1 to 10 are:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]