NANCHANG, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Is a strange name a crime?
When a certain Zhao family in east China's Jiangxi Province had a son 23 years ago, they decided to give him a highly unusual name-- namely, C. As the family tells it, C stood for China, and it was also intended to encourage the boy to learn English.
But it caused the college student trouble with the police, and he had to change his name.
The Yuehu branch of the Yingtan public security bureau in Jiangxi went on trial Thursday afternoon, as Zhao C sued it for alleged infringement of his rights, a court source said.
The court hearing started at 3 p.m. in the Yingtan Intermediate People's Court. After a three-hour hearing, Zhao agreed to change his name, but he has yet to decide a new name comprising Chinese characters.
In return the police bureau has agreed to issue him a new ID card free of charge.
Zhao had told the court the police office refused him a new ID card as part of a nationwide replacement program. The police claimed that it was technically not possible to put English letters in names and told him to get a new name.
"I was registered at birth under that name," Zhao said. He contended that allowing the first registration meant the name was accepted by local security officials.
"I like my name. It is easy to remember and my classmates called me Cici," he said.
The case first went to court in January 2008, when Zhao's father, Zhao Zhirong, who himself was a lawyer, sued the Yuehu branch on his son's behalf. The People's court of Yuehu District sided with Zhao and ordered the security bureau to issue a new ID card.
But Wan Cheng, director of the Yuehu branch, refused, saying: "It is against China's regulations to include letters in people's names." The branch appealed last June.
According to the fourth clause of the Law of Citizen's Identification Cards, characters, numbers and symbols could be used on people's new ID cards.
Zhao Zhirong argued that "C" as a symbol could be used in the name.
However, lawyer Liu Xiqiu noted that the clause actually meant characters, numbers and symbols could be used in "different areas of the card". "Just as characters are used in names, numbers and symbols are used in the birthdays, addresses and ID numbers," he said.
Filling the spaces incorrectly would result in the computerized registration system failing to accept the application, Liu added.
"If you fill the name space with letters in the computerized registration system, you won't be able to submit the form," he said.
But in 1985, when Zhao was born, registration forms were hand-written, and there were no such problems.
Some students of similar age to Zhao sympathized. "It is unique," said Lan Tian, a student from the Nanchang University. "The name has been used for so many years and it was the fault of the government at the beginning that resulted in the lawsuit, why should Zhao be punished?"
But another student, 21-year-old Liao Zhenhua, said changing the name was the right decision. "Adding a foreign letter in the name is an erosion of Chinese culture."
"People should be serious with their names, as they are symbols that will accompany you throughout life," said Ma Xuesong, head of the sociology research institute of the Jiangxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
"People's names should be in line with their nation's culture. If you want uniqueness, you can have strange pennames or online nicknames," he said.
Liu Xiqiu believed that the case reflected a flaw in the Law of Citizen's Identification Cards.
"Relevant clauses should be specified so as to prevent similar problems," he said.