UPDATE: The website has been temporarily been taken down. The Ministry of the Interior told local media that the closure was due to cyberattacks, which the Ministry attributed to anti-independence advocates.

Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior (MoI) and Ministry of Culture (MoC) and a team of design experts are holding a contest to inspire a redesign of the country's national identification card (國民身分證), leading to a hot debate over Taiwan's shifting national identity and social values.

Voting on public submissions for the ID cards has been underway since April 21, and a winning entry will be chosen on May 11, which will serve as a starting point for the next national ID card. The winning team will receive a prize of NT$120,000 (US$4,055).

Graphic designer Aaron Nieh (聶永真), one of the five judges of the contest, told The News Lens that the contest was held to get public input on the design, including elements such as how to arrange all the information on the new ID card "in a more appropriate and contemporary way."

The current card is often criticized as being too busy and difficult to read.

Much of the talk around the new card hasn't had to do with layout, but with what should or should not be included. Nieh said that the contest then led to "so much discussion on [national identity], information regarding gender, marriage situation and family privacy."

Some popular submissions have become pocket-sized soapboxes for political statements, ranging from cards titled "Taiwan National Identification" (臺灣國民身份證) to nationalist designs featuring the ROC flag displayed over a map of China.


Identity Redesign / 林昊翰

This card, which makes no reference to the Republic of China, is currently the leader in the contest.

Identity Redesign / Johnny Chang

This card claims to have been issued in Nanjing.

Nieh said that the contest has stirred public reactions after media reported on the contents of the designs. "This competition is fairly open to all designers with their own viewpoints at the submission stage. If citizens [vote for a particular design], it somehow indicates what a majority of voters stand for, right?"

He went on: "We know in reality Taiwan’s politics are restricted in many forced ways, international relationships and historical disputes among different parties and identifications that we cannot change easily."

He added that the MoI and the organizing team had to clarify that the design would later be modified. The contest rules state that the submissions will only "serve as a basis for the new design."

Most of the designs are earnest attempts to create a more practical ID card than the current one, which has been in use since 2005. Even Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) cards given to foreigners living in Taiwan are more modern and secure than the national ID cards.

One contestant, Ned Chu, said that his design (below) had been influenced by his time abroad. "During my time in Canada, I met lots of people from different countries, so I got chance to see their IDs when I hung out with them – you need to show ID when you order a drink at the bar in Vancouver. I found out most of their IDs have English info, and my Taiwanese ID can’t prove anything."


Identity Redesign / Ned Chu

The name Dakota J. Garcia represents 'a new Taiwanese citizen from Canada,' according to designer Ned Chu.

One issue with the current ID card is the use of the Mingguo calendar, a system not used in any other country, though it shares a starting year with North Korea's Juche calendar.

Another contestant, David Hsu, told The News Lens that he had kept his design (below) deliberately neutral in terms of identity: "I feel [the contest] demonstrates a certain rivalry. However, I wish to emphasize and convey something that is more objective, more positive and more grateful."


Identity Redesign / David Hsu

Hsu's design allows two people to put their cards together to complete a map of Taiwan.

He added that the contest showed that "just two people [his girlfriend helped with the design] could help to define Taiwan's identity, and help the small island be more powerful."

"It is also a small symbol of Taiwan, with unlimited potential. This is an encouragement and blessing to Taiwan."

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Editor: David Green