China - ccTLD domain open to individuals and application process for overseas applicants streamlined

China Internet Network Center (CNNIC), the registry for .cn domains, recently announced that it had revised the Implementing Rules of Domain Name Registration to permit individuals to register .cn domains. It also recently took steps to enable foreign applicants to register .cn domain names in their own name.

Opening the ccTLD domain to individuals

The newly adopted Implementing Rules, which took effect on 29 May 2012, provide that "any individual or organization that can bear independent civil liabilities has the right to apply for the domain registration under the implementing rules".  Before these Rules came into effect, the previous Implementing Rules, adopted on 1 December 2002 and amended on 5 June 2009, had limited domain name applicants to "organizations that are legally registered and could bear independent civil liabilities".

In practice, however, because Registrars did not verify the identity of new applicants, individuals were able to register domain names simply by signing up for them on the web.  After being severely criticised in late 2009 for the amount of illegal .cn domain name activity that was taking place, CNNIC reacted by adopting a stricter application process to ensure that individuals were not registering new .cn domain names.  It also launched a review of existing domain names to crack down on false registration.  The result was a massive slump in the number of .cn domain name registrations.

The strict application process required new applicants to submit identity documentation, which included the applicant's business license and the administrative contact's identity card, both issued by the relevant competent Chinese authority.  A side-effect of this reuirement was that overseas applicants could not register .cn domains in their own name: they had to use the name of their Chinese subsidiary or that of their local agent.

Application process for overseas applicants

CNNIC has recently begun to ease the situation for overseas applicants by designating a number of Registrars in foreign countries.  These Registrars will be able to accept local identity documentation, thus enabling overseas applicants to register .cn domain names in their own name. 

Our comment

These changes should considerably improve the registration process for .cn domain names.  Overseas clients wishing to register a .cn domain name in their own name should make enquiries of the designated Registrar in their country in relation to the exact documentation required.  For those clients who do not have a designated Registrar in their country, and are thus obliged to file in China, we will continue to provide agency services.