2008-06-26 06:57:29 GMT 2008-06-26 14:57:29 (Beijing Time) China Daily
Street-car racers better think twice before they step on the accelerator - they could face a more serious charge.
Three young people caught racing on Beijing's third ring road on the night of March 15, 2006, were charged with endangering public security at Beijing Chaoyang district people's court on Tuesday. One of them crashed into two vehicles.
Before that, people found racing and involved in an accident were charged only with causing traffic casualties and faced a maximum prison sentence of three years.
Those not involved in an accident could be held for seven days and fined a maximum of 500 yuan ($75) under the Penalty Law of Public Security Management.
The change suggests the authorities have started to crack down on street racing, a researcher said.
"The charge of endangering public security means these racers may face harsher punishment, from at least three years' imprisonment to a death sentence," Song Yinghui, deputy director of the research institute under the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said.
And, the charge will be the same for those who cause accidents and those who do not.
Beijing Youth Daily quoted experts as saying it signals street racing is no longer an illegal act, but a crime regardless of its consequences.
In the case under trial, the three young people, all drunk after a birthday party, raced against each other at speeds of up to 120 kph, compared to the speed limit of 80 kph.
Shan Xiangwei, one of the accused, ploughed into a jeep on the Guomao Bridge. He did not stop, but kept on driving and hitting a taxi. He finally stopped and abandoned his car on a side road of Jingtong expressway. He surrendered to the police the following day.
His two friends were charged with the same offense, although they were not involved in accidents.
The court has yet to announce a verdict.
There has been rising concern over street racing in the country in recent years.
Reports said illegal racing is spreading among youngsters in big cities like Beijing, Chengdu and Kunming, along with the growing number of cars.
The most famous street racer in Beijing, which has 3.29 million private cars, is Chen Zhen. In 2006, he covered Beijing's 32.7-km second ring road in only 13 minutes.
Chen was arrested and became the first person in Beijing to be held for street-car racing.
Insiders said many street racers are young Chinese who have lived abroad for a few years, like Chen. Others include car enthusiasts and businesspeople.
Street racers are being encouraged to join motoring clubs or bodies so that they can pursue their passion in a safe environment, without endangering members of the public.