Chinese telecom companies have asked cell phone users to register their real names and ID numbers following a government order aimed at combating phone scams and harassing text messages.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a regulatory notice earlier this year saying all future cell phone sim card buyers need to have their IDs checked by electronic ID readers. The ministry also said old users who have not registered their real names needed to do so before September 1.

china mobile photo
China Mobile billboard. Photo: The Tenth Dragon

Those who failed to register before the deadline could risk having their numbers suspended, state media People’s Daily reported last month.

The government first rolled out real-name registration for phone users in 2013. However, the rule has faced hurdles as all three mobile network operators—China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile—have said its implementation “is not easy” due to large user bases.

Mobile phone user accounts in the country reached 1.295 billion in July 2015, a report by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said.

According to online news portal Sina, the Guangdong branch of China Mobile will send messages to remind their users to register their identities. If users failed to do so, the company will restrict their services to receiving calls and messages, meaning making calls and sending messages will be banned.

Meanwhile, the Guangdong branch of China Unicom and the Beijing branch of China Mobile both said they have no current plan to suspend users over the new rule, Sina News reported.

Photo: The Tenth Dragon

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Vivienne Zeng

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.