Fri. 8:36 a.m.: China bars millions from travel for ‘social credit’ offenses
BEIJING (AP) — Forgot to pay a fine in China? Then forget about buying an airline ticket.
Would-be air travelers were blocked from buying tickets 17.5 million times last year under a controversial “social credit” system the ruling Communist Party says will improve public behavior.
According to the just-released annual report on the system, some 5.5 million people were barred from buying train tickets, according to the National Public Credit Information Center. The report states that 128 people were blocked from leaving China because they were behind on their taxes.
The ruling party says penalties and rewards under “social credit” will improve order in a fast-changing society. Three decades of economic reform have shaken up social structures. Markets are rife with counterfeit goods and fraud.
The system is part of efforts by President Xi Jinping’s government to use technology from data processing to genetic sequencing and facial recognition to tighten control.
Authorities have experimented with “social credit” since 2014 in areas across China. Points are deducted for breaking the law or, in some areas, offenses as minor as walking a dog without a leash.
Human rights activists say “social credit” is too rigid and might unfairly label people as untrustworthy without telling them they have lost status or how to restore it.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence criticized it in October as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.”
The ruling party says it plans to have a nationwide “social credit” system in place by 2020 but has yet to say how it will operate.
Possible penalties include restrictions on travel, business and access to education. A slogan repeated in state media says, “Once you lose trust, you will face restrictions everywhere.”
Companies on the blacklist can lose government contracts or access to bank loans.
Offenses penalized under “social credit” last year ranged from failure pay taxes to false advertising or violating drug safety rules, the government information center said. Individuals were blocked 290,000 times from taking senior management jobs or acting as a company’s legal representative.
It gave no details of how many people live in areas with “social credit” systems.