China to Fingerprint Foreign Visitors

China to Fingerprint Foreign Visitors

BEIJING (AP) -- Millions of foreigners visiting China annually will have their fingerprints collected starting this week, China's Ministry of Public Security announced Thursday.

The requirement will apply to most people between the ages of 14 and 70. Foreigners holding a diplomatic passport or coming from countries that have reciprocal agreements with China will be exempted, the ministry said.

Fingerprint logging will start Friday in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city bordering Hong Kong, before being gradually implemented elsewhere.

Chinese authorities counted more than 76 million entries and exits last year from foreigners, primarily from South Korea, Japan, the United States and Russia.

The ministry said in a statement that the new requirement was "an important measure to strengthen entry and exit management" that matches requirements in other countries.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has fingerprinted most foreign visitors since 2004. The agency said on its website that it is conducting tests of facial recognition software and other biometric screening. Japan also began fingerprinting all arriving foreigners in 2007 as a public safety measure.