Tampering with a plate, in an attempt to circumvent local traffic regulations, is a criminal offence in China. Police in the southern city said on Wednesday that Yu, who has represented China 59 times, was fined around $700 and will spend 15 days in "administrative detention."
"Guangzhou traffic police found an illegal traffic safety act of using a modified vehicle number plate," police said in a statement released on social media. "After investigation and evidence collection by Guangzhou traffic police, the perpetrator surnamed Yu admitted the illegal facts."
Guangzhou said that the 33-year-old, who has won the Chinese Super League five times and the Asian Champions League once since signing for the club for around $6 million in 2014, had violated the club's disciplinary code.
The images circulated on social media seem to show Yu changing one of the letters on his licence plate from E to F so he could continue driving in in Guangzhou. Vehicles, like Yu's Mercedes-Benz, that are registered outside the city of 13 million residents can only drive for four consecutive days before having to sit out the next four.
Guangzhou, coached by 2006 Italy World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro, have a reputation for taking a no-nonsense attitude to breaches of discipline. In March, Wei Shihao and Yang Liyu were fined around $40,000 each for breaking club rules when on international duty.
It remains to be seen if Yu, now a free agent, can find a new club before the start of the 2020 league season which could kick off in late May or June. The campaign was set to begin on Feb. 22 but has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.