New ID could create class divisions

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  A man has his fingerprint taken for an ID card in Hanoi, where the Ministry of Public Security last week began a pilot program to introduce a new card that includes the cardholder's parents' names

The Ministry of Public Security last week launched a pilot project to introduce new ID cards in several districts in Hanoi. The project is worth implementing, given that the new card provides more important information about the cardholder than previous IDs.

However, by including the cardholder's parents' names, the new ID seems to be exceeding its brief, and is likely to result in unnecessary consequences.

In terms of management, an ID card is used to identify a certain person, not his or her family background. Information about one's parents can be found in one's residence book, birth certificate and personal files that are kept by government agencies.

Do we really need information about a person's parents in an identity card? How does such information help government agencies improve the discharge of their responsibilities towards the public?

We already experienced many problems in the past when society seemed to decide everything based on a person's family background. During that time, however good you were, you would not be given any good opportunity, including going to school, if you came from a farmer's family or an economically poor background. At the same time, a person with poor performance still had lots of good opportunities, thanks to his or her "good" family background.

Such social prejudices are now threatening to come back with the implementation of the new ID card. It is really difficult to figure out how state management can be improved with the revelation of parents' names in a person's ID card.

For many people who are in their 50s, putting their parents' name in their ID cards would remind them of the pain of losing their loved ones. It is the same for orphans who grow up in orphanages. What is the point in revealing their family backgrounds?

From a social standpoint, revealing one's parents' names can create two opposite effects.

On one hand, people whose parents are famous and have high social positions will consider themselves as belonging to the high, privileged class, more or less. This assumption is unavoidable, given the fact that we have many times read recent news reports about traffic violators who immediately contacted their families after being arrested. What if police found out that a violator was the child of some leader?

On the other hand, people whose parents are criminals may suffer from an inferiority complex, even though they are not responsible for the crimes. Furthermore, they might not have been brought up by their parents. On humanistic grounds, should we push our citizens into such unnecessary, harmful complexes?

The Ministry of Public Security should suspend the plan and study it further. If information about one's parents is really necessary for the ministry's management, it should be hidden by technology so only people in authority can read it with a specialized reader.

One's social and family background should be classified as personal information that should not be revealed in his or her ID card.

By Prof. Le Hong Hanh

The writer heads the Institute of Legal Science under the Ministry of Justice

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