22 March 2019
More than 93,000 Hong Kong people reported having lost their identity cards in 2013. Photo: HKEJ, internet
More than 93,000 Hong Kong people reported having lost their identity cards in 2013. Photo: HKEJ, internet

Lost your HK identity card? That could cost you a lot

Are we turning into a bunch of absent-minded people?

Consider the statistics: more than 93,000 Hong Kong people reported having lost their identity cards in 2013. That translates into 250 people losing their IDs every day.

Since the current ID card system was introduced in 2003, about 890,000 people have reported lost ID cards. That means one in eight Hong Kong people lost their ID card in the past decade.

That may not be such a big deal as it will only cost you HK$350 (HK$370 from next month) to have a lost card replaced. But the cost of losing your card could be unimaginable.

In 2012, a woman lost her ID card and found herself with a debt of HK$70,000, according to an Apple Daily report. Five telcos charged her the amount after someone used her lost ID card to open 39 accounts and racked up the charges by using the telecom services to the hilt.

Telecom service providers allow users to delay submitting proof of their address until after opening an account.

After suffering harassment from finance agencies, she reported the case to the police. She refused to pay the fees and filled in forms to declare that someone had illegally opened the accounts with her lost ID card.

Of course, not everyone is so unlucky. Some cases of lost ID cards were intentional.

In the years after the government launched new ID cards for Hong Kong citizens in 2003, many chose to keep their old ID cards as souvenirs. They simply made false reports to the police that they lost their old IDs, and after securing an official document regarding the loss, they applied for new ID cards. (It’s illegal to own more than one Hong Kong ID card.)

Now the government plans to replace all identity cards in phases between 2018 and 2022. That would make them the seventh generation in the long evolution of the Hong Kong ID card.

In seeking a general replacement, the Security Bureau notes that the existing smart ID cards are gradually reaching their 10-year lifespan, making them more susceptible to malfunction and damage. It also says the new multi-purpose card can be used for free public services and transactions.

Despite the hard sell, however, the plan is raising more worries than welcomes. That’s because the new ID cards would enable the government to monitor the whereabouts of people more easily, and that’s worrisome, considering that people’s trust in their government is not exactly very high following the Occupy Central movement last year.

Indeed, social control through technology is getting on the nerves of many people. Which reminds us of the joke that Beijing could find out what half of the population likes by calling either Alibaba’s Jack Ma or Tencent’s Pony Ma.

The Hong Kong identity card has 65 years of history. It was first introduced after the Second World War when mainlanders were flooding into the tiny island.

The first-generation ID card was merely a paper document with a photo and hand-written information. They came in three different colors – yellow, blue and pink – to identify the bearer’s social status, not their political orientation.

The plastic age came in 1960 when the government issued a blue card for men and red card for women, and introduced the children ID card, which was half the size of the one for adults.

Then came the third generation, a unified ID version for all genders and ages, in 1973, and a fourth generation with anti-forgery features in 1983 to curb illegal immigration, and another one in 1987 when the government decided to adopt the Hong Kong Permanent Resident title in preparation for the handover to China in 1997.

One interesting finding: Women protect their identity cards (and probably their age – the most important data in the card) much better than men do, based on the number of damaged cards reported. 

It is believed that some men put their card in their pockets, sometimes with the keys, which explains why they often break their ID cards or damage the chips inside.

So, take good care of yourself, and your identity card.

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EJ Insight writer

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