The first phase of Hong Kong’s real name SIM card registration programme will begin on Wednesday with telecommunication operators setting up systems in preparation for a 2022 roll out, as the Telecommunications (Registration of SIM Cards) Regulation takes effect.

shum shui po ap liu street electronics sim card registration
Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP

In what the government describes as an overdue move to fight regular crime, telecom companies will have until the end of February 2022 to upgrade their infrastructure for linking the real identities of Hongkongers to their mobile SIM cards.

However, Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Deng Zhonghua cited the registration scheme as one of a series of policies to protect China’s national security, in a speech to mark one year since the national security law came into force in the city.

Hong Kong officials had sidestepped questions on whether the new policy would assist police probes into potential violations of the security law.

Until next year, the public will be able to continue using pre-paid, unregistered SIMs. However, starting on March 1, 2022, all new and existing mobile phone plans and SIM cards will require real-name registration or they will be deactivated.

Foreign SIMs exempt

The measure will “plug the existing loophole” in the use of anonymous SIM cards and assist authorities in detecting crimes, the government said in a statement.

However, foreign SIM cards with roaming enabled will be exempt from the regulation, HKFP has learned.

mobile phone
Photo: GovHK.

“[T]he Real-name Registration Programme for SIM Cards (Registration Programme) only regulates SIM cards issued by local telecommunications operators for use in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson said in response to HKFP’s enquiry last month.

“For crimes involving foreign SIM cards, Hong Kong law enforcement agencies would closely collaborate with their international counterparts on the exchange of intelligence and investigation requests to deal with cross-jurisdictional crimes.”

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