The government has revealed the design of the new Hong Kong smart identity card with nine forgery-proof security features. It comes after the legislature gave its support in 2015 for the introduction of a new system.

The new polycarbonate cared features a hologram with a wave and 3D effect, the words “Hong Kong” embossed in tactile relief, rainbow printing, a transparent window partially showing the card number, a multi-pattern background, micro-printed text and a full-colour ultraviolet image, according a document submitted by the Security Bureau to the Legislative Council.

The government will launch a replacement programme for all residents in the fourth quarter of next year, involving around 8.8 million identity cards. It plans to spend HK$1.46 billion for the programme between 2018 and 2022.

The new Hong Kong identity card. Photo: GovHK.

It said the major change, compared to the old cards, is that the bearer’s photo and the small stereo laser image on the portrait switched positions.

The chip will be on the back of the card, instead of the front and the card will use use optically variable ink in the arrow.

The new Hong Kong identity card. Photo: GovHK.

The government has also proposed including a digital photograph and the bearer’s gender in the chip, in addition to the currently stored identity card number, English name, Chinese name, date of birth and date of issue.

It said the digital photograph would allow flexibility for financial institutions to assess the costs and benefits of adopting technology more widely to provide secure and efficient services to customers – such as facial recognition. Meanwhile, the addition of gender could eliminate the current need for manual input by healthcare providers.

However, it also stated the right to access the two data items would remain locked until the Legislative Council has been consulted.

The new Hong Kong identity card. Photo: GovHK.

Need for change

The current smart identity card system was introduced in 2003 and was designed for optimal use for around a decade.

“Its hardware and software are already becoming obsolete, and it has become increasingly difficult to secure system maintenance and technical support due to a limited and dwindling market supply of the outdated technologies,” the government said in a previous document.

The current Hong Kong identity card. Photo: GovHK.

It added that the expiry date of the system maintenance agreements was extended from December 2013 to the end of 2018. A further extension is considered undesirable as it can no longer ensure system reliability owing to a prolonged use of outdated technologies.

The government hired consultants in 2010 to review its information system strategy to avoid serious malfunctions. The study for a new identity card system was completed in 2014.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.