Smart ID cards to 'manage populace'
Bill Savadove in Shanghai
Three cities started issuing new electronic identification cards yesterday in a move to help 'population management', state media and officials said.
Two districts in Shanghai, Huzhou city in Zhejiang province and Shenzhen started issuing a limited number of the 'smart' cards, which can store information on an imbedded microchip. The government has hailed the smart cards as a triumph of technology.
State television said the new cards would provide more convenience and benefit 'population management and protecting social order'.
Little debate has taken place on the mainland about issues of privacy, which has made such cards more controversial in Hong Kong and foreign countries.
The few mainland residents who have expressed concern about the cards said they were worried that information about criminal records could become public.
Next year, authorities will begin widespread replacement of old cards, issued from 1984. Nationwide use of the smart cards is set for 2008.
Shanghai plans to issue the new cards to 200,000 residents by the end of this year, with all the city's citizens carrying them in five years.
Additional reporting by Eva Woo