China’s Public (and Not so Public) Records

I find it interesting how some countries grant wide access to government records on individuals and companies while others are far more restrictive. The United States is the most open of the countries of which I am aware. Here, things like divorces proceedings, birth records, corporate records and most things that happen in courts are generally available to just about anyone.

That is not the case in China.

In China, household and personal information, such as birth and death and marriage records, are difficult, if not impossible, to secure, legally. To check a household record, one needs to know the name, ID number and address of the relevant person. There is no general database that allows someone to find such a record with just fragmentary data. Beyond that, it is not legally possible for an unrelated party to view or copy personal information in China. This information is sealed and it is only revealed to the applicable party at their request.

Because of this, China private investigation service businesses are booming in China. Many of these companies use various illegal methods to get information.  Even these people need to know who they are looking for and where that person’s records are located since there is not a sufficient information base in China to allow for a generalized search for an individual based on fragmentary data such as their parents are supposed to be “so and so.” These investigators can check the household register of a known person to see whether or not a birth has been recorded. They can then check whether anyone with that name is registered in the same district. It is important to note that records are maintained by district. It therefore is not sufficient to say, “look in Hefei”; you need to know the specific district in which to look.

Corporate records and land records in China are generally reviewable by the public.

What are you seeing out there?

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