Posted by Joel Martinsen on Friday, February 27, 2009 at 5:56 PM
The man formerly known as C
Zhao C can no longer call himself Zhao C.
The 22-year old man had used "C" as his given name for his entire life, yet when the time came to update his ID card to a second-generation version, the local Public Security Bureau informed him that his name violated the rules. Not only that, their computers were not equipped to handle non-standard characters.
Zhao couldn't believe that a name that had been used on official documents for two decades could suddenly be invalidated, so he took the PSB to court in what was heralded as China's first name-rights lawsuit.
In June 2008, a district court in Yingtan, Jiangxi Province, found in his favor, but the PSB appealed.
Zhao's father Zhao Zhirong, a lawyer, argued on his behalf during the court session yesterday. He brought up a number of other commonly-used letters that do not seem to present any problems for police computers:
The most interesting part of the case involved a dispute over whether the "C" in Zhao C's name was part of Hanyu Pinyin, the PRC's official Romanization system for Mandarin Chinese, or if it was a foreign language letter:
Since the pronunciation of the letter was an issue, arguments in court referred to a "left crescent" (左半月形), which the Jiangnan City Daily notes was mentioned more than one hundred times. Zhao Zhirong argued that the idea that the "left crescent" is a foreign letter is an outdated historical concept; the PSB did not agree.
After an intense, three-hour session that included the sight of a bailiff fainting against a table, the denouement was fairly anti-climactic: Zhao and the PSB reached a mutual agreement whereby he would voluntarily change his name, and they would waive the paperwork fee. The PSB offered him compensating, which he declined.
Zhao Zhirong told the Information Daily that he and his son don't have any good ideas for a new name, so they're asking the public for suggestions.
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