Macau considers collecting biometric data for city arrivals

Face Detection, Scan, Scanning, Biometrics, Monitoring

A new immigration, stay and residency bill could be coming to Macau this year. At least one provision of the legislative piece is not going to make privacy advocates happy; however, it’s also becoming the global standard and isn’t going to go away. According to André Cheong Weng Chon, Macau’s Secretary for Administration and Justice and a spokesperson for Macau’s Executive Council, the bill includes the legal authorization by the government to collect biometric data from anyone entering the city, which could also be shared with all government offices.

The bill, which is just a draft of the potential legal framework, would unify two current and competing immigration and residency laws, as well as two administrative by-laws that were introduced in 2003. Combined, these provide blanket coverage for immigration and residency issues, as well as extended visitation by non-locals, and topics concerning deportation and how the laws are enforced. The biometric data stipulation of the bill would allow the collection of fingerprints, palm prints, iris and retina patterns and facial recognition. Commissioner Ng Kam Wa of the Public Security Police (PSP) explained last Friday in a press conference that, once the law is implemented, only one form of biometrics data would be collected by immigration officers.

Cheong said of the new bill, “With reference to international common practice, the bill proposes the introduction of measures to collect and verify visitors’ biometric data so as to enable [immigration officers] to effectively detect those using a false identity, with the aim of preventing and combating illegal immigration and overstaying more effectively.” He added that the proposals are necessary in order to combat illegal immigration and to help curb criminal activity by those in the city illegally.

The bill would also require hotels to inform immigration authorities each time a non-local guest checks in or checks out. It also looks to cut down on marriages-for-residency and other fraudulent means of trying to stay in the city illegally. Going forward, fake marriages and forged employment documents would be more closely controlled by Macau’s legal system.

Macau leaders are using the slowdown caused by COVID-19 to take a closer look at its operations as it prepares to enter a new era of growth. In addition to revamping its immigration and visitation laws, the city is also beginning to work more closely with Shenzhen in the Chinese mainland in an effort to propel that growth. Macau hopes to work with the city to help fuel innovation in science and technology, education and culture.

Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng took a trip to the city recently, as part of a larger trip of cities in the Guangdong province, meeting with Wang Weizhong, the Deputy Secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Secretary of the CPC Shenzhen Municipal Committee. He believes Shenzhen can be fundamental to Macau’s continued development and is excited about an expanded relationship with the Shenzhen province and its leaders.