BEIJING, May 3 (Xinhua) -- China will start to issue a new type of passport, which contains an electronic chip recording the holder's personal information, according to a Ministry of Public Security announcement on Thursday.
The new passports will look similar to traditional ones but an electronic chip will be inserted inside containing elements including the holder's name, date of birth, photo and finger prints, said a statement from the ministry.
Under preparation for three years, the new passports will be available from May 15.
Their introduction will help improve the safety of Chinese passports and effectively prevent counterfeiting, the ministry hopes.
More rigid anti-counterfeiting technologies, such as special printing ink, laser signs, holographic film and digital signatures, have been applied.
The country also worked to ensure the safety of digital information contained in the passport chips. Strict protection measures will be imposed on the reading of this data, especially finger prints, the statement said.
Finger print data can only be extracted through decoding devices used by China's border control authorities and police, according to the ministry.
The annual number of passports issued by China has increased sharply from 1 million in the 1990s to 10 million now, with an annual average growth of 20 percent.
As more than 90 countries have adopted such digital passports, China has felt the need to follow the trend and expects new technologies to play a constructive role in maintaining state security and facilitating citizens' travel abroad, the ministry said.
The procedure of applying for new passports remains the same, except that, for an applicant aged 16 or over, finger prints and a signature are required.
For those under 16, finger prints will be taken only when their guardians agree, the statement said.
Another boost is likely to be passengers getting a simplified experience at border control checkpoints, with the statement promising automated immigration checks.