Govt to press ahead with real-name SIM registration

The government has announced that people will be required to register their identity when buying pay-as-you-go mobile phone SIM cards from March next year, saying a month-long consultation showed the requirement had “strong” public backing.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau made the announcement on Tuesday, saying it was necessary to legislate the requirement in order to tackle a range of serious crimes, including telephone scams.

Under the government’s proposal, law enforcement agencies will be given the power to obtain users’ information from telecom companies without a warrant during “urgent and emergency” situations.

“All these provisions are actually not new. They are basically in line with other enforcement arrangements as described in other similar ordinance,” Yau said.

“Any obtainment of such information will also be subject to other safeguards available in our legislation.”

One change the government has made to its original proposal however is to relax a proposed limit on how many pre-paid SIM cards a person can have.

Individuals will be allowed up to 10 SIM cards each – instead of three, as suggested in the administration’s initial proposal – while corporate users can register up to 25 with each telecom provider.

“Twenty five is not the absolute cap,” Yau said. “In Hong Kong, there are four major telecom operators … very simply people can easily walk into these retail shops to get handily 100 cards.”

The secretary said the government will submit the bill to Legco for scrutiny next week.

If all goes to plan, he said telecom operators will be given about half a year to set up a registration system and people will have to give their name, date of birth and ID card details from March 1, 2022.