Hi-tech ID cards to go national
A new digital generation of identity cards will be rolled out nationwide, with the Ministry of Public Security vowing to have 800 million of them issued by 2008.
The deputy director of the ministry's Public Order Administration, Bao Suixian, said the first version of identity cards adopted in 1985 had so many drawbacks that the authorities were forced to replace them.
Mr Bao said the old paper cards had few security features against counterfeiters, and the fakes were a threat to social order. The new generation was 1mm thick, made of nine layers of paper and plastic and, with its improved anti-counterfeiting technology, was as secure as the country's currency.
Applications for the old ID cards took up to 90 days to process, but this would be cut to 30 days under the new system. The new cards are machine-readable and embedded with a 4kb computer chip.
The Public Security Bureau said the information on the cards could be shared with other government departments, and only police officers could revise the data on the chips. The nation's ID card law specifies that the chip system cannot contain any extra personal details, but allows for updates.
However, Mr Bao said other information such as fingerprints, criminal records or credit records could be added if amendments to the law were adopted.
Residents of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan can apply for mainland ID cards, but they have to settle on the mainland and have a permanent residency permit. People under 16, military personnel and prisoners can also now apply for the new ID cards.