A Chinese student who for 22 years happily carried the name Zhao C (Zhao "Left Crescent") fell foul of the powers that be when he came to get a new "second generation" ID card at his local Public Security Bureau (PSB) - police informed him "it was technically not possible to put English letters in names and told him to get a new name".
Zhao, of Jiangxi Province, was named C in honour of China - a patriotic move also designed "to encourage the boy to learn English", as Xinhua puts it. He told the news agency: "I was registered at birth under that name. I like my name. It is easy to remember and my classmates called me Cici."
C's lawyer dad, Zhao Zhirong, last year presented his son's case in the People's Court of Yuehu District. The court "sided with Zhao and ordered the security bureau to issue a new ID card", although the PSB refused and appealed the ruling.
The matter was finally settled late last month, Danwei reports. During a final hearing, Zhao Zhirong argued that addresses "often contain Latin letters, of the form Section A, Building B, Unit C"; that his own second-generation ID card contains the letter 'X' in the checksum place"; and that China's national broadcaster, CCTV, "has stated several times that it has no intention of changing the abbreviation of its name, despite Ministry of Education rules that could be interpreted to prohibit English and English-language abbreviations in station logos".
The PSB's representative, Liu Xiqiu, countered that "X is used to represent the number 10 as a single digit, but it is not part of a name" and that the TV station in question station "would certainly not have filed its registration papers using the abbreviation 'CCTV'".
He stressed that while numbers and symbols were permissible in "birthdays, addresses and ID numbers", the name area of the ID card was for characters only. He said: "If you fill the name space with letters in the computerized registration system, you won't be able to submit the form."
In the end, the whole cased hinged on "whether the 'C' in Zhao C's name was part of Hanyu Pinyin, the PRC's official Romanization system for Mandarin Chinese, or if it was a foreign language letter". The PSB argued that Zhao "did not provide the lower court with evidence that the English letter 'C' is part of the national standard for 'numbers and symbols' of the People's Republic of China".
Zhao senior "argued that the idea that the 'left crescent' is a foreign letter is an outdated historical concept".
The three-hour session - which unsurprisingly "included the sight of a bailiff fainting against a table" - concluded with a compromise: Zhao would get a new name and the PSB would "waive the paperwork fee". His father told the Information Daily that the lad didn't have a new moniker in mind, and invited suggestions.
Public reaction to the case of Left Crescent was mixed. Lan Tian, a student at Nanchang University, told Xinhua: "It is unique. The name has been used for so many years and it was the fault of the government at the beginning that resulted in the lawsuit, why should Zhao be punished?"
However, 21-year-old student Liao Zhenhua backed the police, insisting: "Adding a foreign letter in the name is an erosion of Chinese culture."
In case you're wondering how "Left Crescent" came to slip the net in the first place, Zhao junior was born at a time when birth certs and the like were filled in by hand.