New Punishments for Chinese Citizens With Bad 'Social Credit'

Social credit can be lowered by everything from massive debt to parking bikes in wrong place
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2018 5:00 PM CDT
Chinese Citizens With Bad 'Social Credit' Face Travel Bans
Passengers line up to board their train at the Hangzhou East Railway Station in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang Province, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.   (Chinatopix via AP)

Do something untrustworthy or dishonorable? That could get you banned from taking planes or trains for up to one year in China. Gizmodo reports China has been rolling out its "terrifying" social credit system since 2013 and on Friday added travel restrictions to the list of punishments citizens can face. The system ranks people on what they do, say, and buy, according to the Verge. That includes criminal and financial misdeeds but also things like blocking a footpath with a bicycle, and the system doesn't seem to account for much of a difference between the behaviors. Reuters lists other activities that can lower a person's social credit rank to the point of punishment by the state, including putting out misinformation about terrorism, failing to pay fines, and smoking on trains.

While China doesn't plan to have its full social credit system in place until 2020, it has already punished over 7 million citizens under an early version. Travel restrictions will be added to those punishments beginning in May. The system is based on President Xi Jinping's goal to follow the principle of "once untrustworthy, always restricted," but it could be yet another way he is consolidating power under the guise of anti-corruption. It can be unclear to people if they're on the list of citizens being punished for a low social credit score and what they can do about it if they are. “Chinese government authorities clearly hope to create a reality in which bureaucratic pettiness could significantly limit people’s rights,” the Verge quotes a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch as saying. (More China stories.)

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