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HK biometric passports set for 2007

  HONG KONG, Jan. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- Biometric passports for Hong Kong residents may be available in early 2007 to meet the international trend for enhanced passport security, said the Security Bureau Tuesday. It said this will tie in with the first tide of applications for renewal of 429,000 Hong Kong passports issued in 1997. Following the technical specifications prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization, each biometric passportwill be embedded with a contactless integrated circuit chip containing the facial image and personal information of the holderas it appears on the biodata page of the passport, according to the Security Bureau. In line with the practice adopted in the US and the UK, there will be reserved capacity in the chip for the storage of fingerprint images to accommodate possible changes of international standards in future. Explaining the need for issuing biometric passports, the bureausaid following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, all contracting members agreed to step up the integrity and security control of passports and other travel documents. Apart from counter-terrorism, many economies see biometric passports as an effective tool to counter forgeries and illegal migration and other transnational crimes facilitated by passport fraud, said the bureau. Over 3 million Hong Kong passports have been issued so far, and133 countries and territories grant visa-free access or visa on arrival to holders. Enditem

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