The development of Hong Kong Identity Cards can be divided into five stages starting from 1949.
Before 1949, Hong Kong did not have any form of population registration. With the growth of population and influx of migrants from the Mainland, Hong Kong began to issue identity cards in 1949.
Identity cards: The front and reverse side of the paper identity card; laminated adult and juvenile identity cards.
It started with the registration of government servants, employees of firms engaged in essential services and residents of the border area adjoining the Mainland.
In October 1950, the registration was extended to cover the whole population and the whole process took about seven months to complete.
"When the Hong Kong identity card was first introduced in 1949, it was made of stiff paper with no validity specified," said Deputy Director of Immigration (Smart Identity Card) Eric Wong.
As from June 1960, the population was re-registered and a new laminated identity card was introduced.
"At the second stage of development, men and women had different colours of identity cards. The red colour was for the lady while the man's card was in blue. The data on the card face included the photograph and thumbprint of the holder, while the personal data were printed on the back of the card."
Minors were for the first time had their own identity cards. The size of juvenile identity cards was smaller and only carried surname of the holders. Their card number followed that of the parents'.
A revised laminated identity card was introduced in 1973 and both juvenile and adult identity cards were in the same format.
"Card data have been re-arranged and we abolished the thumbprint and added the place of birth onto the card," said Mr Wong.
At the fourth stage of development, a secure computerised identity card was introduced in March 1983 to combat illegal immigration.
The holder's key information was stored in a computer system, assisted by a microfilming system for the storage of photographs, thumbprints and addresses.
"The special feature was that we used an ink-jet printer to print the personal data on a security paper. The card face also bore a security watermark," said Mr Wong.
The final stage of development was from 1987 up to present.
"We call it second computerised identity card. It has two types, namely, 'permanent identity card' (PIC) and 'identity card'. The PIC contains a statement that the holder has the right of abode in Hong Kong."
"The size and general layout of the second computerised identity card remain basically the same as the first one. The main differences are that the card has no validity and the British coat-of-arms was replaced by another graphic pattern."
"With the passage of time, the design of both the identity card and the supporting system we are now using have become aged and outdated. The use of counterfeit or unlawfully altered identity cards has been detected from time to time."
"It is time that we should consider changing a new kind of ID card."
In November 1999, Immigration Department commissioned a team of consultants to conduct a feasibility study to examine and recommend options for the introduction of a new identity card and a new supporting system.
After thorough examination of the consultants' recommendations, the Government decided to issue Smart Identity Cards to the residents of Hong Kong from mid-2003.
"The new Multi-Application Smart Identity Card will be highly secure, fraud-resistant and has the capacity of supporting multiple functions such as library card, digital certificate and driving licence," said Mr Wong.
The replacement exercise will begin in mid 2003 and is scheduled to be completed in four years' time.
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