20 October 2018
The new smart identity card, with enhanced anti-counterfeit features, will be issued from the fourth quarter of 2018. Photo: HKEJ/TVB News
The new smart identity card, with enhanced anti-counterfeit features, will be issued from the fourth quarter of 2018. Photo: HKEJ/TVB News

Next-generation smart ID cards to be issued starting next year

Hong Kong identity cards will be replaced starting late next year with new ones that have more anti-counterfeit features to enhance user security.

In the latest papers submitted to the Legislative Council on Wednesday, the Security Bureau said issuance of the next-generation smart ID cards is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2018 and will last more than four years until 2022, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The first-generation smart ID cards currently held by Hong Kong citizens date back to as early as 2003, and the government deems it necessary to replace them since their optimum life is 10 years. More than 64,000 malfunctioning chips on the ID cards have been reported.

The Immigration Department, which is in charge of the issuance and management of Hong Kong ID cards, began working on new designs soon after it received a HK$1.45 billion funding approved by Legco in May last year.

According to the documents submitted to Legco, the next-generation smart ID cards will feature multiple anti-counterfeit designs, including a new see-through window bearing the card number, which is on the top right-hand corner and separated from the photo, and an image of the Hong Kong skyline that will appear when the back of the card is examined under UV light. 

It will also have a hologram with wave and 3D effects, a multiple-pattern background, rainbow printing, microprinted text and ink with optically variable properties.

The new ID cards’ most visible difference from the current version is the switch in the position of the photos: the big one is moved to the left while the small one with stereo laser imagery is on the right.

As for the built-in e-certificate that can be used to borrow books from libraries and logged into the electronic health record sharing system, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer suggested that it be removed and replaced by a new digital personal ID, which it considers as a better option to help Hong Kong develop into a smart city, according to the papers.

The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau suggested that the digital photo of a cardholder be added to the new ID card to help financial institutions in verifying the user’s identity amid moves toward innovative financial technologies.

The Security Bureau expects about 8.8 million Hong Kong ID cards will be replaced the forthcoming exercise, 2 million more than the last time ID cards were replaced in 2003.

The Immigration Department will set up nine replacement centers across the city. Citizens can fill out the required forms and make appointments online before they go to the centers.

As for the order of replacement, the Security Bureau said personnel from the Immigration Department and the Hong Kong Police Force as well as labor inspectors will be given priority, followed by Executive Council members, Legco president and lawmakers and other principal government officials, adding that such an arrangement can offer room to review the issuance process and operations of the system before full-scale replacement begins.

The rest of the citizens will be arranged according to age groups, similar to the practice seen in 2003.

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