Beijing holds first car number plate lottery

China's capital Beijing on Wednesday held its first car number plate lottery under new rules aimed at easing chronic gridlock in the city, with 17,600 people given the green light to hit the packed roads.

More than 210,000 people applied for the 20,000 number plates available monthly under the measures announced in December, which are also designed to help reduce air pollution, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Nearly 90 percent of the number plates available monthly are allocated for residents. The rest are given to businesses operating in the capital.

The lottery - broadcast live on television and the Internet - was supervised by statistics experts and transport officials to "ensure the openness, fairness and equity" of the process, the report said.

Applicants can check the results online or by phone.

The new rules will allow only 240,000 new cars to be registered in Beijing this year, compared with the record 800,000 automobiles that took to the congested streets of the capital last year, the report said.

The number of registered cars in Beijing stood at 4.8 million at the end of 2010, as an average of over 2,000 new cars hit the capital's streets every day last year.

But the current congestion is already so severe that parts of the the city often resemble parking lots at peak hours.

The capital's number plate restrictions are not expected to have a major impact on overall sales in the world's biggest auto market, which rose more than 32 percent in 2010 to 18.06 million units.

Sales in Beijing account for only three to four percent of the national total.