China: ID required to buy mobile numbers

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Officials have begun demanding identification from anyone buying a new mobile phone number in what the government claims is an attempt to stamp out junk messages. Critics say the measure, enacted yesterday, gives the Communist regime a new tool for monitoring its citizens.

The rules apply to everyone, including foreigners. The state-run China Daily newspaper said the regulation was "the latest campaign by the government to curb the global scourge of spam, pornographic messages and fraud on cellular phones". The new rule will probably not affect Chinese dissidents, many of whom already have their phones monitored. But it could help police to track down ordinary people who take part in spontaneous protests, said Wang Songlian, of the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Previously, cheap Sim cards could be bought anonymously with cash at shops and newspaper kiosks and used straight away, as in the UK.