Updated 8:47 AM EST, Fri, Mar 05, 2021

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Ethnic Groups Face Dilemma Over Punctuation Inconsistencies

Inconsistencies on middle dot, a punctuation that separates Mandarin first name and surname, is causing dilemma among ethnic groups

(Photo : Getty Images) Inconsistencies in punctuation, particularly in regards to the middle dot, is causing a dilemma for members of some ethnic groups in China, especially in dealing with official documents as well as shopping online.

Inconsistencies in the use of punctuation marks is making reading official documents and shopping online via smartphones somewhat difficult for China's ethnic minorities. 

The dilemma is being caused by a punctuation known as 'middle dot', which is used by ethnic groups such as the Uygurs, Kazaks and Tibetan people to separate Mandarin surnames from their given names. Most of the time, bank tellers and other officials replace the dot with a different form of punctuation, while others totally remove it.

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Murat Mamut, a 29-year-old Uygur native, says he did not encounter any hassle while opening a bank account for the first time. The dilemma actually comes when paying for mortgage, transferring money between different banks and accessing online payment services like Alipay.

Murat revealed that while he was employed in Shanghai, he had to spend an entire month moving from one bank to another to standardize the dot. However, to his dismay, it seems not one could understand his concern.

According to Xu Taizhi, the head of the population management detachment in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region's public security bureau, problems related to the middle dot only started in the advent of e-commerce. He explained that e-commerce developers have little knowledge about ethnic names and the format of the dot used during registration for ID cards. What's more, some services have even failed to input the dot in their system, thus creating a dilemma in verifying their IDs.

Furthermore, Xu pointed out that some smartphone apps and websites also limit the number of characters in names, another problem for ethnic groups whose names can be as long as 16 characters.

Dealing with this problem, Xu is hoping that the State Ethnic Affairs Commission could find a way to standardize the middle dot in e-commerce, IDs, mobile banking systems and other service providers.

The deputy director of the business department of the Bank of China in Xinjiang, Palidan Turson, claimed that banks in Xinjiang are already oriented with ethnic names, while all Bank of China branches since 2011 have adopted the standardized format.

Last year, Palidan claims that the Xinjiang Branch offered a suggestion to Bank of China's headquarter for a mobile banking system update, to accommodate the needs of ethnic users.

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