China has banned millions of people from any number of activities for being labeled as 'untrustworthy' on the country's Orwellian social credit system.
Banned from things such as air and train travel, blacklisted individuals are being punished in a broad effort to boost "trustworthiness" among the 1.4 billion Chinese citizens tracked by the massive system - which assigns both positive and negative scores to various metrics, reports SCMP.
People with great social credit will get "green channel" benefits while those who violate laws will be punished with restrictions and penalties.
Hangzhou, the capital city of China’s Zhejiang province, rolled out its social credit system earlier last year, rewarding "pro-social behaviors" such as blood donations, healthy lifestyles, and volunteer work while punishing those who violate traffic laws, smoke and drink, and speak poorly about government.
Human rights advocates have voiced concerns that the social credit system does not take into account individual circumstances, and has unfairly labeled people and companies as untrustworthy.
Over 3.59 million Chinese enterprises were added to the official creditworthiness blacklist last year, banning them from a series of activities, including bidding on projects, accessing security markets, taking part in land auctions and issuing corporate bonds, according to the 2018 annual report released by the National Public Credit Information Centre. -SCMP
According to the NPCIC report, Chinese officials collected 14.21 million pieces of information of "untrustworthy conduct" by both business and individuals - including failure to repay loans, illegal fund collection, false and misleading advertising, swindling customers, and - for individuals, acts such as taking reserved seats on trains or causing trouble in hospitals, SCMP reports.
Meanwhile, around 17.46 million people who are "discredited" were prevented from buying plane tickets, while 5.47 million were disallowed from purchasing tickets to China's high-speed train system.
Besides restrictions on buying tickets, local authorities also used novel methods to put pressure on untrustworthy subjects, including preventing people from buying premium insurance, wealth management products or real estate, as well as shaming them by exposing their information in public.
A total of 3.51 million untrustworthy individuals and entities repaid their debts or paid off taxes and fines last year due to pressure from the social credit system, the report said. -SCMP
The NIPC report also noted untrustworthiness issues on 1,282 peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms, more than half of those located in Zehjiang, Guangdong and Shanghai - which were placed on the creditworthiness blacklist because of illegal fundraising or the inability to repay investors.
Health care product maker Quanjian Group and vaccine maker Changsheng Bio-Technology were added to the creditworthiness blacklist because of their involvement in major health sector scandals.
Quanjian was accused of making false marketing claims about the benefits of a product that a four-year-old cancer patient drank, while Changsheng, the major Chinese manufacturer of rabies vaccines, was fined US$1.3 billion in October after it was found to have fabricated records. -SCMP
Legal experts have expressed concern that the accelerated use of the creditworthiness system trample on what little privacy rights they have in China.
"Many people cannot pay their debt because they are too poor but will be subject to this kind of surveillance and this kind of public shaming," said one attorney quoted by SCMP, who added "It violates the rights of human beings."