Hongkongers who failed to link their SIM cards with their real names awoke to find their mobile phones disconnected on Friday, as the government’s registration deadline arrived.

Around 12 million pre-paid and service plan SIM cards had been registered with users’ full name, date of birth, and identity card, as of Tuesday, RTHK reported. Phone users were able to register 10 SIMs through telecoms providers, with officials claiming the move will thwart scammers, identity thieves and manufacturers of home-made bombs.

sim card registration
Civil servants assist the elderly to register their SIM cards. File Photo: GovHK.

On Saturday, Office of the Communications Authority Head (Market & Competition) Sidney Tsan said the registration plan was vital to upholding law and order: “The real-name registration programme aims to plug the loophole arising from the anonymous nature of pre-paid SIM cards and to assist law enforcement agencies in the detection of crimes involving the use of pre-paid SIM cards, thereby helping safeguard the integrity of telecommunications services and the security of communications networks, as well as law and order.”

However, in July 2021, 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.

Despite officials claiming the move was made to plug loopholes, authorities have said roaming SIM cards will not be affected, meaning mobile phone users may still be able to use foreign SIM cards anonymously, according to experts.

According to police figures this month, there were 27,923 deception cases in 2022, compared to 19,249 in 2021 – an increase of 45.1 per cent.


Unregistered phone users may still have an opportunity to reactivate their SIMs, according to director-general of communications at the Communications Authority, Chaucer Leung. “If people have not registered after the deadline, as long as the [pre-paid] SIM card is still valid with remaining balance, they can still ask their telecom service provider for a resubmission of registration,” he told RTHK on Tuesday.

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

He warned that those offering to complete registration on behalf of others will have had their details passed to the police, as they may have committed an offence.

The government previously set up 18 designated counters at post offices, and 25 designated counters in MTR stations to offer registration assistance.

Almost 60 per cent of Hong Kong people feared police will get new powers to acquire personal data from telecommunications companies under the registration plan, according to a 2021 survey by the pro-democracy Civic Party.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.