China to register all mobile phone users

That’s right, all mobile phone users will have to register their phone numbers with telecom providers or lose their connection – all 383 million of them. Around 200 miilion people (like myself) use pre-pay cards that do not require any registration.

State media recently reported the announcement by the Ministry of Information Industry as:

“…part of a crackdown on telephone fraud and illegal text-messaging practices. The new requirement is expected to help authorities control advertising by short-message systems, advertising spam, financial frauds, mobile phone pornography and “improper political commentary“.

Implementation is expected to begin by the end of the year, and phone customers will probably have six months after that to turn in their paperwork. “It’s unfair if we require only new mobile phone users to register and ignore existing customers,” said Chen Yuping, a senior official at the ministry’s China Academy of Telecommunication Research. “More important, the registration mechanism loses its effectiveness.”

Just when we all thought that Big Brother-type control mechanisms couldn’t get worse in China, they got a whole lot worse. Previous overly-optimistic statements describing the mobile phone (along with the Internet etc.) as one of the guardians of freedom and a method of communication that would always elude government control and censorship, have just bitten the dust.

I’d also presume that, once the registration of mobile phone users is completed, all SMS text messages, even the humourous anti-government jokes that proliferate throughout China, can only be not only monitored but also traced back to the original perpetrators.

The Discussion: 15 Comments

Yeah, I wasn’t too chuffed to see that little item on the news either. Sigh.

December 5, 2005 @ 10:01 am | Comment

i don’t mind monitoring caller identities to control spam, and crimes.

too many scam victims over the mobile network…

we still have the internet for free information…and it is a lot more powerful than mobile phones.

December 5, 2005 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

Come on Sun Bin, do you really think that they are doing this to protect people from spam?

That is the most Pollyannish justification or defense I have ever heard.

December 5, 2005 @ 6:53 pm | Comment

Stopping spam will be a nice side-effect of this. But of course it’s about control. Easier to put people under surveillance, easier to tell who’s spreading anti-government rumours rather than those stupid little text jingles and jokes my students keep on sending me. Easier to keep tabs on the entire population.
Though, as Imagethief says, it’s a wonder it’s taken them this long to get around to it.

December 5, 2005 @ 7:56 pm | Comment

Daily linklets 6th Dec

A super brief linklets today… China's gender imbalance and one child policy. Rules for Hong Kong demonstrations. The news Hong Kong's English media doesn't print. An interview with a Chinese businessman saying Western companies push for c…

December 5, 2005 @ 9:01 pm | Comment

i am a victim to the spam-msgs too, bothered by those spams again and again.

but i am thinking some question seriously:
1> how do the spam-sender get our mobile phone number? from which channel?
2>why is it useless when i am complaining to the telcom operator?

for question 1. i’ve got an answer from one spam-sender. he said he had to pay around 100 RMB(per month) to the telecom provider for the service package which enable him send unlimitted msgs. and the telecom provider(for example, china Mobile) will give him a list of mobile phone number. in this list, the spam-sender can know which range of mobile number is used by one specific city. for example, the number range for Shanghai will be from “1391000001” to “13910099999”

for question 2, if you complain to the telecom that you’ve got one spam from one mobile phone number, usually they would do nothing. if they ban the sender’s phone number, they will lost some income.

that’s all.
spam-sender is only one excuse to putting mobile phone users under survelliance.

December 5, 2005 @ 11:25 pm | Comment

one of the trigger is probably social informations such as the water crisis in harbin.

but do you really think this would work? there are so many fake ID cards, and so many lost phones? for political activists you only need a couple phone to do the job.

December 5, 2005 @ 11:55 pm | Comment

Just a mean to monitor telcom traffic as the EU does now in the name of fighting terrorism.

December 6, 2005 @ 12:07 am | Comment

I don’t really get that many spam messages, maybe get one once a week. And i’m pretty sure that they’ll continue, because do you really think that they really care at all about spam? Nope. Not in the least.
I’m not registering my number. As Cartman once said “whatever, i do what i want.”

December 6, 2005 @ 12:31 am | Comment

Good point Jeffrey,
I wasn’t thinking at all. Of course the spam won’t stop if people are making money off it.

December 6, 2005 @ 12:39 am | Comment

This is just ridiculous and pathetic! Even if the gov does mean to deal the spam problem, registering all the phone numbers is just like hanging someone to stop finger tip bleeding.

December 6, 2005 @ 2:07 am | Comment

If there isn’t already a black market for stolen or unregistered SIM cards, I expect there soon will be.

December 6, 2005 @ 2:09 am | Comment

Great points. My own opinions are amply covered by dishuiguanyin so I won’t repeat them.

December 6, 2005 @ 7:06 am | Comment

There’s a big gulf between a law being *passed* in China and a law being *enforced* in China, let’s remember. How many international copyright agreements has Beijing signed now? And how hard is it to find pirate DVDs?

December 6, 2005 @ 9:52 am | Comment

Yeah, but when it comes to stuff like this, chances to spy on and control the citizenry, it is usually at least partially implemented (at least more so than intellectual property stuff, which is not quite as “pressing”)

December 6, 2005 @ 7:40 pm | Comment

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