A new rule on pets in China’s southern tech hub has touched a nerve among some citizens worried about increasing surveillance. But others say the change is welcome and has been long-awaited.
Shenzhen, home to tech behemoths like Tencent and Huawei, recently announced that all registered dogs must be microchipped by the end of the year. The implantation process involves inserting an identification chip, the size of a grain of rice, under the skin—usually on the back of the neck. It can be completed within seconds, and the chip usually lasts for life.
Free implantation services are now available to registered dog owners at dozens of clinics, said the Shenzhen Urban Management Bureau. Owners who fail to microchip their dog before October will be subject to fines.
With the new move, the city joins Japan, the UK, and some Australian states in mandating dog microchipping.
The practice is mostly designed to make it easier to reunite stray pets with owners. If a lost or stolen dog is found, the microchip can be scanned to reveal the owner’s name and contact information. But Shenzhen authorities said they also hope to discourage owners from abandoning their pets or engaging in other irresponsible behavior.
While many social media users have expressed support, others said they are worried that the move may lead to increasing surveillance on humans.
“Will this become so commonplace that one day, elderly people with dementia or even children will also be implanted with chips to prevent them from getting lost?” One person asked in a popular comment on Weibo.
“How about we implant a chip on every person rather than giving them an ID card?” Another wrote.
While chip implants for humans may seem dystopian, people in some places have voluntarily elected to be microchipped. In Sweden, thousands of people have injected NFC-enabled microchips inside their hands to replace physical train tickets and key cards.
Shenzhen officials said their chip doesn’t track the location of the dog. Only authorized people can decode the information embedded in the chip and access the official database.
Supporters see few reasons for concern.
“A lot of foreign countries have been doing this in a really good and standardized manner,” one Weibo user said. “It’s actually a good thing that our country is beginning to follow suit.”
“The chip is only for storing information, it’s not a surveillance device,” another user commented.
Owning pets, once considered a luxury in China, has become more popular in recent decades thanks to a booming economy. As of last September, Shenzhen had about 150,000 registered pet dogs. The city’s human population is more than 12 million.
Government policies also reflect the changing sentiments of residents. In May, China’s agriculture ministry removed dogs from its list of livestock, citing changes in dietary habits. Shortly before that, Shenzhen became the first city to ban eating dogs and cats.
This article was first published by Abacus News.