Intelligence chief calls for huge ID database

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2011, 12:00am

The mainland's top intelligence and security official has proposed building a centralised national population database, based on the identity card information of every adult citizen, to improve control of society.

If the plan materialises it would be the world's biggest identity database.

In an article published in Qiushi magazine yesterday, Zhou Yongkang, head of the Communist Party's political and legislative affairs commission and the Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of security and social stability, said social management was a top priority and would feature in promotion assessments for officials at all levels.

The article was entitled 'Strengthen and be innovative about social management - building and perfecting a social management system with Chinese characteristics'.

Qiushi, or 'Seeking Truth', is the flagship magazine of the Central Party School - the training ground that grooms the party elite.

Social management - party code for maintaining public order and boosting social-political stability - has become a buzzword in mainland politics since late February, when President Hu Jintao introduced the phrase at a Politburo meeting. A few days later, mysterious online postings began calling for peaceful Sunday afternoon protests in major mainland cities, modelled on the Arab world's 'jasmine revolutions'.

In the Qiushi article, Zhou said there was no time to waste in amending the law on residents' identity cards and setting up a dynamic management system based on the information they contained.

A few days earlier, a report said that around 13 million mainlanders had been overlooked by the compulsory household registration system, or hukou.

Years of rapid economic development have seen the decades old hukou system fail its main social control task, with millions of migrants moving in pursuit of better employment prospects.

'The introduction of such a new information system will definitely step up the authorities' social control intensity,' said Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a political scientist at City University.

'In fact, physical mobility nowadays is much higher, while the strength and influence of the party's grass-roots organisations are significantly weakened ... compared with the late 1970s or early 1980s.'

The country's social control system is facing new challenges for several reasons, Zhou wrote. They includes changes in people's ideologies, values systems and moral standards, a growing awareness of fairness, democracy, rights and the rule of law, and an increasingly strong desire to pursue their own interests and seek to benefit from the mainland's economic miracle.

At a politburo meeting in February, Hu was quoted by Xinhua as saying social management was geared towards 'promoting benevolent social order, and ensuring that society will be full of vigour on the one hand, and harmony and stability on the other'.

The country's new five-year plan, which was approved by the National People's Congress in March, for the first time devoted a separate section to the new concept of 'social management', focusing on bolstering public order and harmony. Vice-President Xi Jinping also repeatedly highlighted the importance of innovative social management during visits to meetings of Fujian and Henan delegations on the sidelines of the NPC's annual meeting and on a later fact-finding trip to Hunan .

Referring to a widely circulated online article claiming that some personal information of card holders, including their photos, names and addresses, could easily be recorded by devices set up in places like airports, railway stations and piers, one tech-savvy internet activist based in Hunan said yesterday that he was worried about whether residents' personal privacy would be properly protected if the policy came into effect.


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