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Lawmakers Add Extra Safeguards to ID Cards
A draft law that gives children identity cards for the first time and better protects citizens' rights was debated by national legislators Tuesday.

The draft law highlights the rights of ID cardholders and restricts the power of police, according to a source with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.

Having gone through four rounds of deliberations by national lawmakers, the draft legislation is expected to go to the vote on Saturday when the ongoing session of the NPC Standing Committee ends.

Under the draft, Chinese mainland citizens under the age of 16 will be eligible for ID cards, valid for five years. But their guardians must apply for the cards.

This will make it easier for minors to open a bank account, catch a plane or perform other tasks that require identification.

The current regulations on residents' ID cards, which took effect in 1985, limit them to people aged 16 years or more.

The draft law also addresses concerns over random police checks of ID cards by specifying the conditions under which they are allowed to examine the cards.

It requires police to show their own cards to identify themselves as law enforcement officers before they check those of criminal suspects or people who violate public security.

The ID cards of ordinary residents can only be examined in special circumstances as stipulated by law.

The changes have been welcomed by some legislators who worry that police may infringe the rights of individuals during random ID card checks.

People are also more likely to lose their cards if forced to carry them at all times, they believe.

However, legislator Li Lianning said the law should oblige citizens to carry their ID cards in case the police need to check identification in emergencies such as fire or poisoning cases.

China has issued 1.14 billion ID cards since 1985 when it started using numbers to identify residents on the mainland, according to Ministry of Public Security sources.

New ID cards will use integrated circuitry (IC) technology to make them harder to forge. The IC identification cards can be read by computers, which makes it possible for police to check huge numbers of ID cards in a much shorter time than before.

(China Daily June 25, 2003)

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