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Furor over English name for baby
Updated: 2005-11-07 08:34

What's in a name?

Chinese families increasingly are seeking unique - sometimes English - names for their children, and this has outraged traditionalists.

A henan Province man who wants to name his son Hu D (English letter 'D') has been opposed by hospital and public security authorities. But he and others say he has the right to name his child whatever he wishes.

The father says the unusual name may give his son the inspiration to innovate and be creative.

As society diversifies and individual freedom increases, Chinese parents are racking their brains to give what is often their only child a unique first name.

In dengfeng city, 700 kilometers south of Beijing, the Henan father named his newborn son "Hu D" - Hu is the surname and the English letter "D" was to be the newborn's given name.

The father, Hu Yu (not his real name), said he named his son Hu D, hoping his son would have a desire to be creative as he grew up.

But the father could not get this unconventional name recognized. The hospital where the baby was born refused to issue a medical certificate. The local police station said it would not register the name.

The father was bewildered. "I gave my son this name in the hope that he would be able to create and innovate when he grew up. Moreover, this name is out of the ordinary and easy to remember and write down," said Hu, citing the name "Ah Q" to explain the rationale behind Hu D.

Ah q was a character portrayed by Lu Xun (1881-1936), one of the most influential writers in China in the 20th century, in his famous short story, "The True Story of Ah Q."

Hospital administrator Dr Li said his institution had consulted public security authorities about newborns' registrations. "We think it is better to name newborns with simplified Chinese characters instead of rare and strange characters," said Li.

A public security spokeswoman said the nation's Public Security Ministry forbids Chinese from using English names when registering their residence and providing other official information.

"If it is an English name, it should be replaced with the proper Chinese equivalent," she said.

A staff member with the Zhengzhou Public Security Department, in the provincial capital, said the computer system used for name registration would not recognize an English name.

After running into so many snags, "Hu D"s father had no choice but to change his son's name into one with two Chinese characters - Hu Di. However, he said he would not give up on the original name of Hu D. "When I find out the laws and regulations to support the original name, I will apply to have it revised," he said.

While the name caused trouble for the father, it also triggered social debate.

A zhengzhou-based middle school teacher, speaking anonymously, said the name looked more like a nonsense than a valid creation.

"There are over 40,000 Chinese characters, with attractive shapes and pronunciation. Why give a name that consists of an English letter? If I had to call out his name someday, I would be wondering whether I was reading Chinese pinyin or spelling out English phrases," he said.

Others sided with the father. Lawyer Chen Guangtao said there was no law or regulation on processing a birth certificate and registering a name such as Hu D.

"Giving a name is a question of personal right and freedom. If the name doesn't violate principles or humiliate people, it could be used," said Chen.

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