[Reader-list] Smart ID Cards in China

Shuddhabrata Sengupta shuddha at sarai.net
Thu Aug 21 21:56:53 IST 2003

Dear All,

We have sometimes discussed the question of electronic 'smart' Identity cards
and surveillance technologies on this list. Here is an article I came across
on ZDNet Australia recently on the Chinese government's plans to implement
electronic 'smart'  identity cards for all its 960 million citizens.

When similar things have been mooted in the Indian context, people have often
dismissed their feasability on the grounds of the scale of the exercise. Here
is at lease another instance of something that is actually even larger than
the excercise planned by the Indian government.

China reveals massive smart ID card plan
By Staff, Special to ZDNet
- 43k - 20 Aug 2003

14 August 2003

China's 960 million citizens will be issued with digital smart ID cards,
starting from next year.

China will replace paper national identification (ID) cards with electronic
identity cards starting in 2004, according to wire agency Dow Jones.

 The new digital ID card, which uses smart ID technology, will be carried by
960 million Chinese citizens. The embedded microchip in the plastic card
stores an individual's personal information, which can be read and checked
against databases kept by China's security authorities.

This massive transformation has proceeded largely under a veil of secrecy,
with little public debate. China's government-run media has also remained
silent on the issue, said the report.

Chinese officials say the new smart ID cards will stamp out counterfeit paper
IDs, which are used in white-collar crime.

According to a Chinese industry executive, trial runs for the smart ID card
will begin in 2004, and most Chinese citizens can expect to receive the new
cards by 2005. As many as 800 million of the cards could be in use by 2006,
according to the Dow Jones report.

Malaysia launched a smart ID card, MyKad, in April 2001. MyKad is
government-issued all-in-one smartcard that performs a wide range of
functions such as data processing, storage and file management. It stores
citizen data, such as identity card numbers, passport information, driving
licences and health information, in a single embedded 64K microchip. The card
also promises secure access to applications such as automated teller machines
(ATM) and government-related online services.

Elsewhere, countries such as the US, UK, and the Philippines are reportedly
mulling the adoption of a national ID system in the wake of terrorism threats
after the 11 September, 2001, attacks. Thailand will launch its smart
national ID card later this year.

However, such plans have been met with fierce resistance from pro-privacy
bodies, which believe identity cards infringe human rights and individual

"In recent years, attempts to create national ID cards in the US, Korea and
Taiwan have all failed because of public opposition," the group said on its
Web site.


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