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China to Roll Out E-Passports to Citizens


China will rolls out e-passports to its citizens starting May 15, 2012. This is to protect the personal data of its citizens as well as ensure national security. Although valid old passports can still be used, new passport applicants will have their thumbprints and signatures stored digitally.

The e-passport is a 48-page document with an anti-forgery label found on each page. A chip is placed at the last page and this chip holds the owner’s information such as name, photograph and fingerprint. No one can access the data in the chip except the police and customs authorities. With the anti-forgery devices inside the document in place, it will be difficult for anyone to copy the passport or use lost or stolen e-passport without being detected.

Installing e-passport systems in entry and exit points is a crucial step that China has undertaken. With thousands of Chinese commuting from one place to another daily, the e-passport system will aid in easing the flow of traffic at customs checkpoints. The use of biometrics, specifically fingerprinting, gives that added security.

However, as China moves towards automatic processing, officials will have to ensure that the transition to the new system runs smoothly. Chinese custom officials have underwent intensive training to handle the necessary workload, including biometric data entry. However, acceptance for new applications from Shanghai and Beijing have been temporarily delayed to accommodate transition.

Tang Lei, head of e-passport management for Beijing Public Security Bureau’s exit-entry administration, said: “If the e-passport system is well-developed, an additional automated pass will be implemented as soon as possible.”

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