China to roll out e-passports to citizens

Electronic passports will be issued to Chinese citizens from May 15 onward, and aims to improve security of national and personal data, report states.

China will be issuing new e-passports in May this year to better protect citizens' personal data as well as safeguard national security.

According to a China Daily report on Wednesday, custom officials state that electronic travel document will consist of 48 pages, with an anti-forgery label on each page and a chip fitted on the last page. Only police and custom authorities will be able to access the information on the chip which includes the holder's name, photograph and fingerprint.

"In this way, no one can copy or use an e-passport that is lost or stolen," said Tang Lei, head of e-passport management for Beijing Public Security Bureau's exit-entry administration, said in the report. "[It] will be effective in protecting national security and convenient for residents when passing through customs checkpoint."

Beginning May 15, new applicants will get e-passports after storing their thumbprints and signatures while valid existing passports can still be used, added Lin Song, an officer in the administration.

The cost of the passport application will remain 200 yuan (US$31.69). New applications will be halted on May 14 though, to facilitate for the migration to the new system, said the news site.

However, in Shanghai, the acceptance of passport applications will be suspended three working days ahead of the May 15 cutover date to prepare devices and make system upgrades, revealed Li Feng, a publicity official for the Shanghai Public Security Bureau exit-entry administration.

"It's inevitable for such advanced technology to step into residents' lives," Tang said, noting that the introduction of e-passports was an essential step China has taken toward automatic processing at customs points. If the e-passport system is well-developed, an automated pass will be implemented "as soon as possible", he added, likening it to the self-service ticketing on buses in Beijing.

The e-passport is likely to increase the workload for employees handling the application process, taking one or two more minutes to finish each entry, China Daily noted. However, authorities also say staff members in charge of application procedures have received "extensive training" to cope with the influx.

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