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New ID Card Stresses Constitutional Rights
The draft law on Chinese citizenship identification cards, intended to improve population management and better protect citizens' rights and interests, was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the nation's top legislative body, on October 25. The draft law will make sweeping changes to current ID card rules in six areas including the card's title, eligible holders and punishments for rule violators. The tabling of the draft has drawn attention from the public and given rise to heated discussion.

Nanfang Metropolis News: Under the current Chinese law, ID cards are not issued to servicemen and armed police, who hold their own military ID cards. Criminals serving time in jail are also barred from obtaining one.

This system is based on the presumption that there is a clearly visible distinction between those denied cards and those who have them. That is, servicemen or armed police have the special duty and responsibility of defending the country and maintaining public security which marks them out, so it is not necessary for them to have a standard ID card. Jailed criminals, on the other hand, are deprived of their rights in society and are, therefore, not allowed to hold ID cards.

But servicemen, armed police and jailed criminals are all citizens of the People's Republic of China, which should be their common identity label.

Now the draft law has widened the scope of citizenship ID card holders to include those who are denied this right under the current rules. This is a leap forward in terms of democratic spirit and humanitarianism.

The new citizenship ID card system, called residence ID under the current rules, will make it more convenient for citizens to participate in political, economic, cultural and social activities, which signals the country's unremitting endeavor to create a just, democratic and lawful society.

China Youth Daily: The ID card is the "rights certificate" which embodies the holder's constitutional rights, so no individual or institution can check, impound or seize it at will, which would be considered an infringement of the constitutional rights the card symbolizes.

In a sense, holding an ID card is tantamount to holding the constitution itself, for no one can encroach upon the holder's rights. This is an ID card principle that all constitutional nations uphold.

That is why in constitutional countries, the ID card is usually designated "citizenship card" and not "residence card," as under the current ID card regulation in China, which was enacted in 1985.

Residence is not a constitutional concept, as it refers only to a person who resides in a certain area, while citizenship is a person who has full-fledged constitutional rights.

Now, embracing the same spirit, the draft law has laid down specific conditions under which the ID card can be checked or seized.

And more importantly, the draft law is to change the title of the ID card from "residence card" to "citizenship card," which will serve as a reminder to the card holder that he or she is a citizen holding certain constitutional rights.

In a word, the modifications are bound to contribute to protecting citizen's rights and interests.

(China Daily November 11, 2002)

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