China issues new identity cards

Many Chinese are dubious about the new residence identity cards which the Public Security Bureau began issuing last week in Peking. Every Chinese citizen over the age of 16 will be required to carry the card in accordance with a decision by the central government announced four months ago.

The card states the individual's name, sex, nationality, date of birth, address, and validity date. The first cards have been introduced in a carefully selected courtyard neighborhood to a group of 380 people, said the Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily.

The first recipient of a card said it would be ''convenient'' and a good thing, the People's Daily reported.

Others disagree. One Chinese newspaper editor commented to this reporter that he personally had opposed the cards for some time. ''It's bureaucratic,'' he said.

Apparently a substantial number of Chinese citizens share that opinion. A front-page commentary in the People's Daily, appearing only the day before the announcement of the first issue of the new card, began this way: ''In my bag there are all sorts of identity cards. Without any one of them, I cannot move an inch!''

''For instance, if I'm going out on a public errand, and I need to buy an airplane ticket, a work identity card is needed. A letter of introduction from the work unit is also needed. Without either of these, I will have no right to buy a ticket.

''For another example, to refuel your car, you need your gas coupons, you need your registration card, your driver's license, plus a letter of introduction from the (work unit's) cashier's office. You can refuel the car only when you have all four.

''To my mind, there's no need to have so many cards....'' The commentary did not mention other commonly required cards, including a bicycle registration card and a hospital card.

While the new card will enhance bureaucratic control of Chinese citizens, it may make it possible to reduce the number of cards people are expected to carry.

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