Ho Chi Minh City’s forceful campaign to take back the sidewalks for pedestrians made headlines on Tuesday again when police towed two cars registered to Australian diplomats parked in the wrong place.
Doan Ngoc Hai, the vice chairman of District 1 and one of the official faces of the campaign, continued his patrol on Tuesday night. He ordered traffic police to move the diplomatic cars to the district office after failing to locate the drivers.
“There must be no exception. Anyone coming to our country must respect our rules. They must not park on the sidewalks,” Hai said.
Local media reports said a representative from the Australian mission had admitted to the violation.
Sidewalks in the mega city of around 13 million people, including migrants, are usually occupied as business and parking space.
Authorities in District 1 started its sidewalk revolution early in February, seeking to keep sidewalks to its original purpose.
They have put up barriers and sent police to stop motorbikes from driving on sidewalks. They have towed many cars and destroyed any invasive construction.
The project has been widely applauded by locals, but it has also raised concerns for being extreme.
Street vendors across District 1 are possibly the unhappiest. Some baguette vendors could be seen crying and yelling when the police seized their shops on wheels, while others have scaled down from a pushcart to a basket so they can run easily.
Hai said the campaign aims to reclaim the public space and to turn District 1 into “Little Singapore.”
“I won’t hesitate to get into conflicts,” Hai has said to express how far he is willing to go to make the plan work. “I will retire if it fails.”
Similar actions have been picked up by 10 other districts in the city.