back to article Zhao 'C' - Chinese police computer says no

A Chinese student who for 22 years happily carried the name Zhao C (Zhao "Left Crescent") fell foul of the powers that be when he came to get a new "second generation" ID card at his local Public Security Bureau (PSB) - police informed him "it was technically not possible to put English letters in names and told him to get a new …


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  1. M7S
    Black Helicopters

    China's state broadcaster is CCTV?

    The only question with this is were they inspired by us here in the UK, or we by them?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere

    You really wouldn't want to allow people to register names using any combination of Unicode characters, would you?

    Does anyone happen to know what characters are acceptable in UK names? I'm guessing they wouldn't let you register a name consisting of a mixture of Syriac and Ogham characters.

  3. TeeCee Gold badge


    What are the Chinese characters for: "Perfectly sensible name that we can't put here 'cos our computer system's a useless bag of shite".

    Seems like a sensible compromise to me.

    Reminds me of when "The The" played abroad somewhere (Moscow, IIRC?) that didn't have a single word for "The" in the language. They were billed as "Word that does not translate, word that does not translate".....

  4. Sam Liddicott

    I declare victory

    At least it's a victory for someone (or something).

    Whatever the down side, we should be pleased!

    Victories are scarcer than ever lately...

    All involved should congratulate themselves and possibly each-other.

    IT systems may wind the world backwards but they can't deny us the fundamental victory.

  5. pctechxp

    How about

    Mao Zedong (Wikpedia contains the chinese characters)

    That ought to mess with the Communist party's heads.

  6. jon

    WTB UTF-8/16

    However I love the racist attitude of the Chinese state. What happens to nationalised immigrants? Do they have to change their name too?

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anonymous Coward

    RE:I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere

    You do have to draw the line somewhere. It seems a shame that it appears to have been someone with very short sight who drew that line!

    A friend of mine has a Polish surname which contains a letter that does not exist in the standard alphabet we use for English. (It looks like an 'l' with a small '\' through it). He has this on most official documentation.

    I have a British surname. My passport and most official documents however, don't reflect the true spelling of my name - braindead computer systems assume that only the first character of a name is a capital. If your surname is "MacLeod" then you're suddenly "Macleod" on official documents - or worse "Mcleod".

    If your surname is "D'Arcy", it must be even worse...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    must have only chinese characters, eh?

    so.. how about 天安門 一千九百八十九 ?

    (Tiananmen Square 1989)


  10. Dave

    Are you there, Winston?

    Sounds like they've got the two-way sets as featured in Orwell's 1984. That would be a good reason to call the station CCTV.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Who determines your name?

    Of course, the real issue here is whose business is it what you call a child. If you are a citizen (e.g. France, China, Italy etc.), then you have rights that the state confers upon you. You are therefore not allowed to call your child whatever you want, and must comply with the state's requirements. So for example in Italy you can only give your child a name not drawn from a list of Catholic saints (say, for example, if you are a Muslim originating from North Africa and might object to that regulation) if you can demonstrate that the name you have chosen has some family connection. But the state ultimately decides. Great, huh?

    In the UK, we are (still) in principle individuals irrespective of whether the state exists, and are merely subject to it. Therefore we can call ourselves whatever we like. In reality though, we have a system here where the local registrar can effectively veto a choice of name, or write it down in some other character representation. For example, my daughter is named after my grandmother, who, being Czech, had non-Roman characters in her name (specifically an 'r' with hacek on it). The UK database can't handle that, and it is rendered without the hacek. But what do I care? My daughter's identity does not depend on the state...

    The funny thing I encountered is the secular assumption in the UK that somehow a child doesn't have a name until conferred by the state at the Register Office. The RO even encourage it by offering 'naming ceremonies' (for a small fee, of course). Many of my friends held that opinion, even though it's patently b*ll*cks. Of course, Jacqui Smith would like to do away with the complication of many of us having the same name (don't want to shoot the wrong person by accident, do we?), and wants to re-name us with a single, memorable 16-digit number tattooed to our foreheads so we can be scanned.

    Paris, because I wouldn't mind inserting a non-standard character into her database....

  12. Anonymous Coward

    The lad wants a suggestion, here it comes...

    If there is a couple of Chinese letters (ideograms, right?) for the words "Left Crescent" then it would become a nice name. "Zhao Left Crescent" in our alphabet. Simple, obvious, direct, reminds of his original name.

    Or perhaps Zhao "Middle Empire" since we are talking about ideograms that would honor China, as his original intention, and I'm pretty sure you have ideograms for that.

    Imagine someone called Gregory England, or Pierre France, or Bob Usa... *shivers*

    Perhaps the Chinese should come up with their version of the ASCII code, with 16-bit length. Instead of 256 characters, you would get 65536 characters, and a hell of compatibility headache. Instead of ASCII code you could call it ROSETTA Code, since it fits all the characters and all of pictograms, of all the languages, both dead and alive, including runic, pre-colombian Maya, and whatever-you-cant-name-due-lack-of-proper-name-in-our-alphabet.

  13. Francis Fish


    This is an intractable problem. I once tried to write a function that solved this, only to find that some people don't bother with the capitalisation. It's impossible to know up front without asking which variant people use. The only way most computer systems could solve this would be by hyphenating it and you insisting to the call-centre jokey that it *is* hyphenated.

    Anyone have a better idea?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Your wife is a hippo

    Perhaps he could change his name to '!' or 'Urinating Dog' as I believe the translation goes in the Forbiddern City.

  15. Ian

    Let's not use any characters at all

    Given that Birmingham has decided apostrophes are a no-go in street signs (, and everyone's complaining about non-phonetic spelling and we can't do it anyway ( let's just go the whole hog and abolish all letters entirely. We can make do with numbers. And if we did binary only, that would really keep things simple and then perhaps we could just get Skynet to do it all for us.


  16. Jerome

    The number 10?

    "X is used to represent the number 10 as a single digit"

    What's so special about checksums in China that they have to be displayed in undenary?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ RE:I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere

    "braindead computer systems assume that only the first character of a name is a capital. If your surname is "MacLeod" then you're suddenly "Macleod" on official documents - or worse Mcleod."

    Actually I think you'll find the computer system will most likely simply store the field as lowercase or (less commonly) uppercase. It's the braindead lazy arse developers who code the display and output routines who can't write anything clever enough to check the data for "Mc"s, "Mac"s, "O"s, and the other common variants, and capitalise accordingly!

  18. Saucerhead Tharpe

    Not just furriners

    In the names Dalziel, Culzean and Menzies the z isn't really a z, it stands for a sound not present in the standard Latin alphabet used for English.

    Which is why "Dee, yell, Cullyain and Ming-is" as pronounciations confuse folks

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re:Who determines your name?

    Actually, I think it's pretty clear that Jacqui Smith doesn't give a toss who gets shot by accident.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Zhao C - computer programming language?

    I already have my coat on, goodbye...

  21. Cameron Colley

    RE: M(a)cl(L)eaod

    There's a similar problem with people who don't hyphenate double-barrelled names, and the fact that apostrophes screw up email systems and [often badly written] databases. <insert joke about calling your child a database function here>

    When you go over to the continent it gets worse too -- then you have the "van de"s and "Van de"s and "Van De"s and those who put it as part of a surname and those who put it as part of the first name; and the letters with umlauts that appear in some places as the accented letter and others with a trailing "e".

    Personally, I'm with the Chinese government on this -- the ID you use should conform to the rules of the systems it's used on -- after all it's only your "official name" that goes on it anyhow.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mcs Macs etc

    So what if my name was Mr Macclesfield? Would I suddenly become Mr MacClesfield instead, or would there be a permitted list of "Scottish" names?

    Things like O'Leary are easy to pick up, though- there's an " O' " which I think is always followed by a capital. Perhaps when entering names into websites the Mac-Whatevers should include an apostrophe prior to capital characters, or the routines that take in the data could add it, allowing software further down the line to properly capitalise names?

    @16-bit ASCII AC

    Isn't that Unicode you just described?

  23. Ray

    @AC: The lad wants a suggestion, here it comes...

    they needn't bother as we already have unicode. it has over 100,000 characters and there's no compatibility headache unless you're working in asp classic. narf.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    War of the C

    What with the Olypics and China building shiney glass skyscrapers and every one walking around with the latests mobile phones its easy to forget what a Horrific country China is.

    Im off to chance my name to:

    0110110000110110010010100101001011001001001100 110101010011001010011100100100100010101001010 C

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Proles and communists

    Although I can see the point of the bureaucracy only having to deal with characters they are familiar with, just as the Britards and/or COBOL-fuelled banks insist on the 26 ASCII letters (with the banks only understanding the upper-case forms, naturally), I think the familiarity case was adequately delivered by the father with the building B and, of course, CCTV references.

    No China story is complete without the obligatory screaming pro-government fanboy, however:

    "However, 21-year-old student Liao Zhenhua backed the police, insisting: "Adding a foreign letter in the name is an erosion of Chinese culture.""

    From the country that instigated the Cultural Revolution, all must bear witness to the culture-eroding menace that is the letter C. If history is lacking in the educational syllabus in China, might sarcasm have taken its place?

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Dr Perri 6

    Yes he does exist - google him. This guy is the bane of IT systems with name validation.

  27. John Macintyre

    reminds me of...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Bad examples

    According to there are already four Gregory Englands in the uk.

  29. greenmantle

    @ RE:I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere

    Hey, my surname is Macdonald. Spelt like that. I don't want some braindead idiot of a developer re-spelling it because everybody is just too lazy to write it properly once and keep the correct capitalisation.

    I'm not even going to start on the French here (lived there for a while) who would insist on putting and apostrophe S at the end...

  30. Jonathan Richards

    @Jerome: undenary

    "What's so special about checksumming in China...?"

    A popular method of checksumming is to weight the digits by place value, and then compute the remainder modulo 11 to append as a check character. This technique reliably catches transposition errors.

    If I remember correctly that's how the ISBN checksum is calculated, and it's certainly the way my employer handles my employee ID, although they go one further and map the check character to an alphabetic A-L (omitting I for obvious reasons).

  31. Don Sinclair

    No big deal?

    A friend recently had his name changed by deed-pole having had to suffer the humiliation for 38 years of being called John Shit. He complianed for years how the name was the subject of ridicule all through his school/college days and how he has struggled to get anybody to take him seriously.

    He can now put his problems behind him having changed his name to.....Alexandros Shit!

  32. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Sweet chinese name irony

    I worked for the British Library years ago, and my boss was quite active in the Unicode consortium - because, apparently, chinese authors from a few hundred years ago had a tendency to make up completely new characters for their names (think Prince but more chinese and less purple). All well and good until you come to catalogue them.

    Bit different these days - if you want to see software in China it has to support the GB18030 character set, which includes all the simplified/traditional ideographs plus arabic, english, cyrillic and other oddities required for one nation spanning lots of cultures (Yi syllabary, look 'em up). Maybe they just haven't updated their government systems yet...

  33. John Savard

    It's not just the Chinese

    Oh, I see someone else has already noted that the checksum in an ISBN number can sometimes be an X. Just as the usual casting out nines checksum only has nine possible values, its natural complement, to protect against two digits being swapped, needs eleven values to work.

  34. Cameron Colley

    Perhaps he should change his name to:

    Throat-Warbler-Mangrove* or Nippl-e**?

    *Pronounced "Luxury Yacht"

    **Pronounced <drops lighter on table>

  35. John Savard

    Despite All This

    However I might feel about the policies of the Chinese government, I don't recall anyone ever complaining that they required Tibetans to convert their names to Chinese characters; and, as well, GB18030 includes the Yi Syllabary and Radicals also found in Unicode, so people who aren't Chinese do apparently have the options of recording their names in their own scripts.

  36. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. Gordon Crawford

    hello my name is


    or if you prefer

    x times x



    or you could call me

    C , [since this = 100 like all the above ]

    The PSB's representative, Liu Xiqiu, countered that

    "X is used to represent the number 10 as a single digit, but it is not part of a name"

    "no , but C = 100 and is used as a name" says me." and is part of a name"!

  38. Steve Roper

    We should just use the IPA

    All these issues of foreign names could be resolved quite easily if we just recorded names using the IPA - the International Phonetic Alphabet. You've all seen it - those collections of Roman letters intermingled with squiggly symbols, upside-down e's and a's etc, used to define the pronunciation of each word in every dictionary there is, and it has a symbol for just about every sound that a human being can utter. This way, no matter what sequence of sounds you choose to call your kid, it can be written down in a globally recognisable form and the correct pronunciation is inherent in the record. Then you can write the kid's name in Roman, Cyrillic, Mandarin, Nahuatl or whatever language you please, as long as that language supports the phonemes used.

  39. Henry Wertz Gold badge


    "Perhaps the Chinese should come up with their version of the ASCII code, with 16-bit length. Instead of 256 characters, you would get 65536 characters, and a hell of compatibility headache. Instead of ASCII code you could call it ROSETTA Code, since it fits all the characters and all of pictograms, of all the languages, both dead and alive, including runic, pre-colombian Maya, and whatever-you-cant-name-due-lack-of-proper-name-in-our-alphabet."

    Can't tell if you're joking, but it's called Unicode. And it kind of is a hell of a compatibility headache. They've even (unofficially I think) set aside a portion of the "user defined" area for Klingon.

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