A government website set up to provide an identity verification service has collapsed due to heavy traffic, and amid controversy over its legitimacy.
The site, which opened on Friday at www.nciic.com.cn, is run by the National Citizen Identity Information Center under the Ministry of Public Security. It was suspended at the weekend due to too many visitors, an announcement on the site said yesterday.
A member of the site's customer service team, who refused to give her name, said technicians were trying to fix the problem, but could not say when the site would reopen.
However, people can still access the information contained on the site by sending a mobile phone text message with the person's name and ID number to 10665110 or 5110, she said.
The woman would not say how many inquiries the site had received since Friday, but said: "Obviously, it's popular."
According to the user guide posted on the website, anyone can "verify" another person's identity simply by entering the relevant name and ID number.
If the two pieces of information match what is stored on the Ministry of Public Security's database, a confirmation message will appear together with a photograph of the person. If the ID number does not exist or does not match the name, the inquirer receives only a negative response.
Huang Mengsheng, a resident of Nanjing, who managed to access the online service before its collapse, said the whole process takes only a few seconds.
Each inquiry costs 5 yuan (75 cents), he said.
"I just wanted to know if the personal information my new housemaid from Sichuan had given me was true, and I found that it was," the 61-year-old said.
"It's quite convenient."
Lu Subing, deputy director of the ID information center, said earlier that the system had been introduced as a way to stop people from using fake identities for such things as online trading or renting an apartment.