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 Zhao Zhirong argued that the idea that the "left crescent" is a foreign letter is an outdated historical concept; the PSB did not agree.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.
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.