Electronic passports now available in Beijing

13:22, July 05, 2011      

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs started to officially issue electronic passports for public affairs on July 1. This indicates that travel documents for Chinese citizens have stepped into a digital network era.

Digital passport has high safety standards, hard to counterfeit

The appearance and size of the new-edition electronic passports for public affairs are the same as traditional passports. On the lower part of the front cover, the unified symbol designed by the International Civil Aviation Organization is printed. It is the unique "identity" of the electronic passport. On the inner pages, "Chinese elements," including the Great Wall and Imperial Palace, are printed as the background.

The "secret" of the electronic passport is inside its back cover, where a "component layer," consisting of microchips, electronic circuits and other parts, is sealed. The information, including the passport owner's name, sex and personal photo as well as the passport's term of validity and digital certificate of the chip, are all stored in this "electronic heart" of the passport.

One unique characteristic of the passport is that it has high safety standards and is hard to counterfeit. In addition, the electronic chip can store a large quantity of information. After the photo of the passport owner is digitally analyzed, the "facial features" data will be stored in the chip. When the owner is entering or exiting a country, customs will take a photo of the owner on site and compare the photo with the data stored in the chip so that the identification can be more precise.

The passport will be issued in three pilot provinces in September

In addition to Beijing, the ministry will also officially issue the passport in three pilot provinces in September: Liaoning, Zhejiang and Fujian. The passports will then be gradually implemented all over China. According to the plan, issuing the passports nationally will be completed in 2012. The passport for private affairs is also being developed and implemented.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a special website for the application of electronic passports as well for collecting necessary data. In addition, it has introduced the passports to foreign governments in accordance with international practice.

Zhang Xin, who works in the media industry, recently applied for an electronic passport for a business trip abroad. She said that the application procedures for the electronic passport and a traditional passport are basically the same, and it only took her a few days to obtain it. As electronic passports have higher requirements for personal photos than traditional passports, she had her passport photos taken twice to meet the high standards, and then uploaded them to the application website.

Electronic passports in line with international conventions

Huang Ping, director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the adoption of electronic passports has shown China's desire to follow international conventions in foreign exchanges and its determination to embrace the trend of internationalization. So far, more than 90 countries and regions, including the United States and Hong Kong, have launched electronic passports.

Luo Guanheng, a Hong Kong resident who is studying in Britain, said that the process of using the Hong Kong electronic passport is very similar to using bus cards. The frontier inspection equipment can quickly read the information within the electronic passport to reduce the time of going through customs.

"If people use traditional passports, customs officers will repeatedly check the characteristic information, such as the appearance of the passport holder if the passport photo is quite different from the real person. Therefore, the passport holder has to wait for a long time and there also may be other problems," said Qi Yongqiang, an officer of a public institution who is responsible for the application of public passports.

Qi also said that as an application for traditional passports requires several photos, it is easy to make mistakes sometimes. The relevant work process has become more scientific, reasonable and convenient after public electronic passports were issued.

By People's Daily Online

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