China’s Controversial Credit System Has Stopped Over 15 Million People from Travelling

While it was earlier announced that China’s social credit system will be fully implemented in 2020, it has already been penalizing citizens with travel bans, state-run media has revealed.

President’s Xi Jinping’s controversial policy has reportedly prevented people from taking 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed train trips as of April 30, according to government-run outlet Global Times. The report, however, did not explain the reason for the huge number of barred trips — nor did it specify which violations the penalized citizens have committed.

The policy, which is often compared to the terrifying “Black Mirror” episode “Nosedive” about a dystopian future, contains a collection of blacklists based on a variety of violations that the government has deemed worthy of penalties.

Listed offenses include misbehavior on planes and trains, or not abiding by a court judgment among others. Aside from travel bans, punishments also include throttling internet speeds or non-access to bank loans.

Hou Yunchun, a former official, was quoted as saying that the system is yet to be improved to ensure “discredited people become bankrupt”. Hou may have been referring to the blacklist created by the Supreme People’s Court to make citizens comply with verdicts and force them to repay their debts.

Debtors, whose identities and ID numbers are published on the court’s website, are among those included in the travel ban. They are also barred from staying at four and five-star hotels, sending their children to expensive schools, booking ride-sharing vehicles, or purchasing luxury products online.

In some areas, callers who attempt to call a blacklisted debtor get a recorded message informing them that the person they want to speak to has outstanding debts.

Earlier this month, photographs of debtors’ faces were featured in a short cartoon shown at movie theatres, on buses, and on bulletin boards to publicly humiliate them. The video includes a voiceover that says, “Come, come, look at these [debtors]. It’s a person who borrows money and doesn’t pay it back”.

The country’s list of debtors, which officially started in late 2013 with just 31,259 names, has ballooned to almost 9 million debtors by December 2017.

As of December, the list has barred about 8.7 million flights and 3.4 million high-speed train trips. In the last six months, an additional 2.5 million trips have also been banned, which meant that more names have been added to the blacklist in 2018.

A China-wide social credit score, which is expected to be implemented in 2020, will see the inclusion of eight more pilot credit systems currently being tested.

Sesame Credit, which is run by a private financial firm, is among these under-trial systems. As one of the few systems which actually gives a score, Sesame Credit works by deducting credit points from those who default on court fines.

Featured image via Flickr / SuperJet International (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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