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Hong Kong's vanity car plates a creative outlet as freedoms narrow

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The affordable luxury of personalised car licence plates are proving an enduring and endearing avenue for self-expression in a changing Hong Kong 

Synopsis: Every first Friday of the month, The Straits Times chats with ST’s correspondents in the Asia-Pacific, the US and Europe, about life as it goes on, amid the screaming headlines and bubbling crises. 

HEY YU, DREAMER, ADD OIL. The messages on Hong Kong's vanity car plates can draw nods of appreciation or chuckles for the city’s motorists. They can tell you a thing or two about their owners' status, sense of humour and beliefs. 

Since the authorities made these special plates possible 20 years ago, Hong Kong has seen a proliferation of such plates on its roads. And along with it, communities have sprung up online devoted to sightings of this phenomenon. 

In this episode, ST’s foreign editor Li Xueying chats with Hong Kong correspondent Magdalene Fung on the motivations behind this trend and what it reveals about Hong Kongers' deepest desires and obsessions. 

Highlights (click/tap above):

0:50 Why vanity plates aren’t just for vanity’s sake alone 

3:20 What Hong Kong’s vanity plates reveal about the city and its people 

9:55 How a car with a special plate came to be impounded in Hong Kong on the anniversary of China’s Tiananmen incident 

12:33 The biggest changes in Hong Kong society in recent years 

Read Magdalene Fung’s article here:

Produced by: Li Xueying ( and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Fa’izah Sani

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