A Move to Add Fingerprints to Chinese ID Cards

October 30, 2011 9:59 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 3:14 pm
A policeman checks a visitor's ID card at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on March 1, 2009.      (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman checks a visitor's ID card at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on March 1, 2009. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

On Oct. 24 China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) passed a draft amendment to the Resident Identity Cards Law that threatens to include fingerprints in ID cards, increasing the scope of police inspection and raising concerns about potential misuse.

While reporting on the NPC’s draft, the state newspaper Xinhua on Oct. 24 mentioned that the current ID cards in use from April 1984 would not be valid from Jan.1, 2013 onwards. In the meantime, the issue, renewal, or replacement of ID cards will require registration with fingerprints.

Yang Huanning, Deputy Minister for Public Security, stated that embedding fingerprint information in the ID card will enable a raft of organizations to process information quickly, as well as being helpful for national security and social stability.

Jiang Tianyong, a human rights lawyer in China, told Deutsche Welle that national security does not have much to do with the want to include fingerprint information on ID cards. “The new draft amendment is to control people,” he said.

The draft includes the ability for police to demand ID from citizens in public places and at major events. “Failure to comply will result in prosecution and punishment. This is actually a setback for people’s legal rights,” he said.

Aside from the proposed integration of fingerprint data, Chinese police have been able to read peoples’ ID cards from a distance since 2005 with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

“The RFID method of monitoring people does not require physical contact. Police can read your information from a distance of, say, 10 meters away,” said Zhang Tianliang, a visiting professor at George Mason University and China commentator.

“If you’re one of the people on the CCP’s tracking list–such as Falun Gong practitioners, petitioners or dissidents–police equipment can set off alarms and transmit the information to a remote database.”

He pointed out that, despite all the efforts at identifying people, there was no list of victims available with the railway after the high-speed rail crash in Wenzhou. “This proves that the data on the ID cards of passengers is not stored by the railway department; it is in fact with the police,” he said.

The move to integrate fingerprints goes along with increasing suggestions that real names be used online and on microblogs. A recent article making such demands was published in a state-controlled newspaper, by anonymous authors.

Read the original Chinese article.

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