Zhao "left crescent" needs a new name

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:

  • A, B, C: Zhao Zhirong pointed out that addresses often contain Latin letters, of the form Section A, Building B, Unit C. This proves that the PSB system is able to handle letters.
  • X: Zhao Zhirong pointed out that his own second-generation ID card contains the letter "X" in the checksum place. The police representative said that X is used to represent the number 10 as a single digit, but it is not part of a name.
  • CCTV: Zhao Zhirong brought up China's national broadcaster, which has stated several times that it has no intention of changing the abbreviation of its name, despite Ministry of Education rules that could be interpreted to prohibit English and English-language abbreviations in station logos. The police representative recognized Zhao's example, but averred that the station would certainly not have filed its registration papers using the abbreviation "CCTV."

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:

In court, the Yuehu District PSB argued that the lower court had been mistaken in its factual judgment and application of the law....First, the respondent uses the English letter "C" for his name. In Pinyin, this has a pronunciation similar to (雌), rather than (西). Moreover, the respondent did not provide the lower court with evidence that the English letter "C" is part of the national standard for "numbers and symbols" of the People's Republic of China.

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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There are currently 12 Comments for Zhao "left crescent" needs a new name.

Comments on Zhao "left crescent" needs a new name

the arguments bandied about by both sides are all factual. where are the legal arguments? and where's the law? is the law so settled that the case was justifiably reduced to factual pleadings?

in another jurisdiction, the entire matter would likely have been a simple three-step inquiry:

1. what restrictions, if any, apply to the giving of legal names to natural persons under Chinese law;

2. what restrictions, if any, govern the graphical representation of such names in legal documents; and

3. is the PSB obligated to accurately and consistently reproduce this graphical representation in its system of records? if not, what restrictions apply to limit abuses of PSB discretion?

Unfortunately, we don't have any way of knowing that. The lower court decided that the law allowed for characters other than hanzi in names, but the compromise here prevented the court from making a decision. And of course, given how Chinese case law operates, even if this one court decided in Zhao C's favor, that wouldn't necessarily mean that people in other regions would be able to use letters or obscure characters in their names.

Isn't there a "names law" in China? Chinese legal tradition is more of that of a european continental law, not the Anglo-Saxon common law. So there is no "case law" to speak of.

"Talkee true?", said 阿Q.

I've always wanted the put the number 7 in the middle of my name.


When people ask, I could say the 7 is silent.

It's my name, I can choose any I like. The government of whatever country has no right to tell me I can't use it.

Too bad if their computer system doesn't handle it. Why is a letter or a number difficult for a computer?

Similar problems have occurred in many different countries.

case law: Thanks for pointing that out. It was an improper use of the term when what I wanted to highlight was the very fact that Chinese court decisions don't set precedents.
Pa7ul: The oft-cited example is Jennifer 8. Lee.

But didn't the Chinese invent the Western alphabet system 4,825 years ago???

That'd be funnier if they actually did invent an alphabet system but dumped it due to entrenched interests.

I'm curious, can an American use Hanzi in his formal name? For all the legal documents and such?

One thing that confuses me is HOW the PSB system cannot support English characters; if they support unicode 20, they should support both CJK characters and the latin alphabet.

i am a bit confused by all of this. does anyone know how do the Zhaos pronounce the half crescent symbol? Apparently we need to examine if the C was hieroglyphically documented, if it was, then it would be a valid character, and the PSB should recognize the C.
we can't overlook the fact that his father is a lawyer, this would either be an attempt at fame, or a fight for some sort of freedom.

Until recently in France, people were forced to have only names of the saints or those names recognized by the government. The result is that many immigrants have two names - their real name and the one used on official documents.

I was caught out once when traveling with an immigrant friend. I made our flight reservations under his real name, but the RyanAir did not want to issue the ticket to someone whose passport did not match the ticket.

RyanAir's solution was - not surprisingly - to demand a 25 euro service charge for changing the name.

We pleaded long enough that they eventually relented and let us onto the flight.

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