Chinese government to block over 2 million unregistered phone numbers

Government of the People’s Republic of China has advised all rogue mobile phone number owners to hasten with their proper registrations between now and October 15.

According to notice published on July 15 by China’s three biggest carriers – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – all mobile phone numbers that have no links to verified National ID cards will be blocked.

The rules on mobile telephone number registration applies to both foreigners and Chinese citizens as China joins many Asian and European countries in the fight against anonymous use of mobile technology.

Records from the telecom operators show there are currently 2.35 million rogue telephone numbers in use within the country although registration of phone numbers started since 2010.

While most countries who currently observe the laws against use of unregistered phone numbers do so to curb crimes, drugs and terror attacks, China says its fight is aimed at protecting subscribers from spam messages and internet crimes.

“The regulation was the latest campaign by the government to curb the global scourge of spam, pornographic messages and fraud on cellular phones,” the China Daily newspaper said.

A vendor browses magazine at a news stand with a paper displaying mobile phone numbers for sale in Beijing, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010. China began requiring identification on Wednesday from anyone purchasing a new mobile phone number in what it says is a bid to stamp out rampant junk messages but that some say is raising new privacy concerns. Photo: Andy Wong, AP

Image shows a Beijing shop where mobile telephone numbers are sold.

According to a report from China Unicom, the company says it has 1 million unverified numbers.

On August 15 and 30, China Unicom sent messages to unverified numbers and offered a discount. The first 300,000 numbers were active users and the other 700,000 were inactive users.

Beijing Mobile of China Mobile said 10 percent of its unverified numbers had completed the verification by the end of August. It still had 1 million unverified numbers.

Beijing Telecom of China Telecom also said 10 percent of its unverified numbers had completed registration.

Luo Jia, deputy director of Marketing at China Mobile Beijing Company, said many users are not aware of the policy and didn’t believe their numbers would be disabled.

A spokesperson for China Telecom Beijing said phone, cellular and messaging services will be disabled for unverified numbers.

Unverified users can complete their verification process using the companies’ websites, service centers, WeChat channels or apps.

“I think the government has an eye on Iran where protests were fueled by text messages and Twitter and they are doing this for social stability reasons,” said Wang Songlian, research coordinator with the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Though people who are reluctant to register their mobile telephone numbers claim they fear vendors might resell their personal information, the law cannot be avoided. China is said to be keeping close eye on dissidents – and all citizens, so police can track anyone who takes part in protests.

China censors Internet content it deems politically sensitive and blocks many websites, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. After ethnic riots in far western China’s Xinjiang region, international phone service and the Internet in the region were suspended for months.