China will begin issuing electronic passports containing biometric information, such as fingerprints, to citizens on May 15.
Officials said the new passports will better protect citizens’ personal data and national security.
“In this way, no one can copy or use an e-passport that is lost or stolen,” Tang Lei, head of e-passport management for Beijing Public Security Bureau’s exit-entry administration, told the Jakarta Post. “The e-passport will be effective in protecting national security and convenient for residents when passing through customs checkpoints.”
Like many other electronic passports, the document contains a small radio frequency identification chip (RFID) that stores information about the carrier such as their name, photograph, and date of birth. The Chinese passports will contain advanced biometrics including fingerprints.
In order to accommodate the new technology, hundreds of fingerprint recorders have been installed at border crossings throughout the country. The new passports will not only make border crossings more secure, they will also make them quicker.
With more than 90 countries already using electronic passports, Tang said the technology was a welcome addition to the Chinese landscape.
“It’s inevitable for such advanced technology to step into residents’ lives,” said Tang, who hailed the arrival of e-passports as an important step for China to take toward automatic processing at customs points according to the Jakarta Post.
Electronic passports have been growing in popularity around the world. Last week the US Government Printing Office announced it had produced a total of 75 million electronic passports to date.
According to research conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the US provides the largest amount of electronic passports (72 million) and the UK is the second largest issuer (27 million). However, projections assembled by Acuity Market Intelligence say that the Asia Pacific region is projected to issue 55 million documents in 2014 alone, representing 42 per cent of the total global share.