Identity card glitch spells double trouble

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 June, 2010, 12:00am

More than one million Chinese permanent residents are potentially in trouble because a faulty registration procedure two decades ago resulted in them being given duplicate identity card numbers, according to mainland media.

A woman who declined to be named complained that when she applied for a bank account in Beijing, she was told somebody in Guizhou, which she had left 20 years ago to move to the capital, was already using the ID card number she provided, according to the Beijing Evening News.

It turned out that the person in Guizhou having the same ID card number was a schoolmate. Negotiations between the two failed at first, as neither was willing to apply for a new ID card.

Because the Beijing woman would have had to apply for a new passport, driving licence and credit cards, which would cost more than 1,000 yuan (HK$1,140) once she had a new ID card number, she finally persuaded the schoolmate to change ID card numbers as the Guizhou woman had fewer certificates that would have needed reapplication.

In another example of the problems caused by duplicate ID numbers, a civil servant was taken away by police when he checked into a hotel because his ID card number duplicated that of a drug addict, according to Huashang News.

The identity card is the most important document mainlanders are asked to show when filling all sorts of legal forms. But according to the newspaper, errors have been made during the registration procedure as far back as 1986, the year the ID card system was launched. Professor Wang Taiyuan, of Chinese People's University of Public Security, told mainland media six years ago that at least one million Chinese residents had duplicate ID numbers.

The problem had been widely reported since then and, in the meantime, mainland police were upgrading the first generation of ID cards to second generation by installing new computer chips. The upgrade allowed all ID cards to be checked nationwide with the launch of a new computer system that also turned up the duplicate numbers.

Some people in Zhanjiang, Guangdong, were told that other people were using their numbers, so they had to halt their applications for second generation ID cards.

In Gushi county, Henan , police chief Gao Chang said that up to 100,000 people in the county were found to be sharing ID card numbers with other people.

'They even wrongly registered my name,' Gao said about the mess in the residential registration system, according to the previous report by the Yangcheng Evening Post in Guangzhou.

The Ministry of Public Security announced on - the website of the People's Daily group - in January that as early as 1999, police were trying to correct the errors made in the 1980s.

But since many ID cards had been used for years in many different government departments or institutions, such as banks, the ministry admitted it was hard to fix all mistakes in a short time.

Victims and some lawyers said the government should cover people's expenses and losses while they apply for new ID card numbers.

Liu Shihui, a Guangzhou-based lawyer, said it would be reasonable for the government to cover the expenses caused by the new application as it was government staffers who caused the problems.

Chen Dailong, a lawyer in Fuzhou, Fujian, agreed, but conceded it was almost impossible for the ministry to cover such expenses.

'At least they should co-ordinate with people who share the same ID card number and help one to change the number so they can apply for new certificates,' he said.