It’s been over a year since China has mandated ID registration for all mobile phone users. The rule, introduced on 01 September 2013, makes it a requirement that telecommunications operators know who their users are by ID. (This is probably why your local Starbucks needs you to log in via your mobile phone; although this also happens to wifi hotspots overseas, such as those in the UK.)
Those who have not registered, or have in their possession an unregistered card, are regarded as “illegal users” and can come under the spotlight if they use their phones in abusive ways — spamming or using it for scams will obviously put you in the eyes of the police (as will using the phone to commit terrorism-related crimes), but as this is China, sending the wrong text messages (especially if it’s about politics or porn) could also land you in trouble.
The Chinese authorities announced during their national 7 PM news programme that they will conduct a year-long special operation aimed at those who use unregistered SIM cards to break the law. Again, the main priorities are to stop scams and spamming via text message (in particular), which have in particular become a major headache. Some users have their data illegally sold to marketers of questionable character: particularly hard hit are those who have been found out to be rich — so they end up on the receiving end of spam texts about high-end products.
Another concern is with regards to scams, which mainly target seniors (as they end up more gullible). There is also a recent warning about text messages which come from numbers which closely resemble national telecom operators, but with only one letter or number of a difference. Scams and phishing are closely linked to these attempts on your personal data — or money.
There will also be restrictions on how many SIM cards you can have registered under your name. You may be put on a special watchlist if you have 5 or more SIM cards registered to you. The new rules apply also for wireless Internet-only cards.
As this is China, expect also a little more meddling regarding the contents of what you send. Just be sure not to send anything that might have the police looking at you funny — and if you haven’t registered your phone, it’s in your best interest to do so. (You will often be asked to do so, if you haven’t registered already, when you request new services for your number.)
The “clean-up” campaign runs through all of 2015 and is being organised by the Ministry of Industry and Information, the Ministry of Public Security, and the National General Administration of Industry and Commerce.