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The Inside Story of “Legitimate” Fake IDs

01-28 14:18 Caijing
This loose yet vast hukou trafficking network consists of buyers, hukou agents, corrupt police officers, and staff members at local family planning authorities and neighborhood or village committees.

By staff reporter Ling Xin

“As long as you are a full-time college graduate, we can get you a Beijing hukou for 600,000 yuan. You can totally count on us. My friend’s uncle works at the household registration office. We’ve done this before. Or we can get you a new hukou with a whole new name, age, and everything,” Ao Xiangdong (alias) said confidently.

It is difficult to imagine that in China, a country known for its strict household registration system, there are people like Ao, who sell “legitimate” fake IDs for a living. The identification cards they offer can pass the national ID-verification system. A client only has to provide his or her photo plus the name and age they wish to have on their fake ID card.

“I, for one, know of 71 such ID cards, which are supposedly issued by household registration offices across 32 districts or counties in 11 provinces,” says Zai Zai (pseudonym), a volunteer for the Child Safety Charity Fund, China Social Assistance Foundation.

This loose yet vast hukou trafficking network consists of buyers, hukou agents, corrupt police officers in charge of household registration, as well as corrupt staff members at local family planning authorities and neighborhood or village committees.

The “end users” of these fake IDs range from babies under three to adults born in the 1980s or even the 1970s who want to circumvent home-purchase restrictions or swindle insurance payments. Wanted fugitives are also part of hukou agents’ “customer base.”

The agents do not care about the reason their clients need a new identity; they only care how much they can profit, which varies with the risks of their customers’ being caught. Hukous for children are the least expensive and can be had for 10,000 to 40,000 yuan. Hukous for adults usually cost between 60,000 to 100,000 yuan. And a permanent urban residence certificate in major cities like Beijing will cost even more.

After a “client” places an order, household registration officers handpick a suitable

family to “take in” the fake ID, only that the family being picked have no idea they have been chosen. After finding a “host family,” hukou agents have staff members at local family planning authorities or neighborhood or village committees forge all the necessary papers. Finally, household registration officers issue “legitimate” fake IDs using the fabricated materials.

Fake IDs are created by forging birth papers, usurping identities of dead persons, or fabricating hukou transfer records. Moreover, hukou agents typically hoard ready-made fake IDs for their clients to choose from. The existence of fake IDs points to inherent flaws in the hukou system and corrupt practices among some staff members.

Zai Zai, who secretly investigated the hukou trade, once ran into a hukou agent in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, who carried around a notebook with information on more than 30 fake IDs for sale. Almost all the IDs are of adults registered to be living at a local school. Caijing verified the IDs are “genuine.”

Normally, a newborn should be registered at the local police station by submitting birth papers and parents’ ID cards, household registers, and marriage certificates. To pull off a hukou transfer, one has to apply to the local police station of his or her target residence, stating the cause of the transfer (e.g. home-purchase or marriage) and submitting supporting documents and other materials needed, so as to secure a hukou transfer letter. The transfer can be carried out only when the local police station of the applicant’s current residence, upon receiving the hukou transfer letter, issues a certificate signaling approval of the proposed transfer.

In some rare cases, an adult is left out of the household registration database. The examination and approval process for re-entering such adults into the national hukou system is even stricter. First, an applicant has to submit his/her parents’ identity information and documents that can verify his/her life path. Second, local household registration officers have to conduct on-site investigations and talk with references to confirm the authenticity of information provided by the applicant. Lastly, the case shall be reported to the local police station or one-level-up for approval.

Police authorities lack access to the information needed to verify the authenticity of birth certificates and residency papers; moreover, increased mobility among the population has made it more difficult for police officers to conduct “home visits.” The inherently flawed hukou system is further threatened by the absence of a single national system featuring real-time search of hukou data as well as corrupt practices among certain police officers.  

Full article in Chinese:http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2014-01-27/113867894.html

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