Mark Swofford, Steve Hansen, and Anne Henochowicz have just called my attention to a wonderful post by Joel Martinsen over at Danwei which tells about a man named Zhao C who was informed by the Public Security Bureau of the People's Republic of China that he can no longer call himself "C," something that he has been doing his entire life. Mr. Zhao and his father, a lawyer, brought suit against the Public Security Bureau. Last June, a district court in Yingtan, Jiangxi Province, found in Zhao C's favor, but the Public Security Bureau appealed. As one might have expected, Mr. Zhao was ultimately forced to "voluntarily" change his name.
The government's position that Mr. Zhao's name violated rules and that their computers were not equipped to handle "non-standard characters" is, to say the least, disingenuous, since the roman alphabet is in evidence all over China. In the first place, Hanyu Pinyin is the official roman orthography of the People's Republic of China, enshrined in the law. Second, all Chinese schoolchildren learn to read Chinese through the medium of Pinyin and they also all learn English. Third, the most famous literary figure of the 20th century was named Ah-Q, and many Chinese novels have personal and place names that incorporate roman letters. Fourth, as Mark Hansell pointed out already in "The Sino-Alphabet: The Assimilation of Roman Letters into the Chinese Writing System," Sino-Platonic Papers, 45 (May, 1994), 1-28, the roman alphabet has long since been fully incorporated into the Chinese script. Fifth, there are entire dictionaries consisting of thousands of what are called ZI4MU3CI2 字母詞 ("letter words"). Even standard dictionaries, such as the Xiandai Hanyu Cidian (Dictionary of Modern Chinese), which was edited by scholars at the Institute of Linguistics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and published by the famous Shangwu Yinshu Guan (Commercial Press), either have a section devoted to "letter words" at the back or integrate them into the main body of entries.
Martinsen's post ends thus: "Zhao Zhirong told the Information Daily that he and his son don't have any good ideas for a new name, so they're asking the public for suggestions." Any ideas?