In the past, the government of China had established travel rules and set restrictions in place for people who owed the country massive amounts of debt. People who were being investigated for serious crimes were also not allowed to travel freely, just as it is in many other countries around the world.

 In May 2018, the travel restriction and ban laws were extended to people who committed variably minor offences such as late payment of fines, fraud, false advertisement, tax evasion, pollution, negligence to customers, indiscriminate parking, and misconduct on public transportation, which may include taking up extra seats and intentionally sitting on someone else’s reserved seat [1]. The Chinese government devised and implemented a social credit system that would reward or punish people who avoid or commit minor offenses. Rewards may variably include greater job opportunities and easy access to public utilities, while punishments dominantly involved the restriction from buying train or plane tickets for up to a year, thereby preventing access to government-facilitated transportation [3].

In addition to the travel restrictions, citizens are also at the risk of losing better job prospects and being unqualified for employment. Citizens who are found guilty of minor offenses would lose social credit points, and subsequent loss of points would most likely result in a poor social credit score. A high social credit score could earn a person the perk of seeing a doctor without lining up forever, whereas a low score may restrict a person from access to transportation and possibly the purchase of certain goods and services.

Heavy deployment in 2018

The social credit system was initiated in 2014 and has been undergoing upgrades ever since, with the final progress results targeted to be achieved by the year 2020. The social credit system, according to the government, was put in place to enhance public safety and integrity by fostering mutual trust in society. The slogan for the system which states: “Once you lose trust, you’ll face restrictions everywhere.”

Just when people thought the government was bluffing about the system and its dictates, people were barred 17.5 million times from purchasing plane tickets in 2018, according to reports from China’s National Public Credit Information Center, released by the Associated Press [4]. Another 5.5 million bans were issued against the purchase of train tickets. In total, people were restricted 23 million times last year from traveling due to unspecified “behavioral crimes” and poor social credit scores. 290,000 people were prevented from securing high-paying senior management jobs. 128 people prevented from traveling out of the country due to tax evasion.

Ranking all citizens and keeping social tabs

Several policies have already been put in place to fully implement the social credit system [5]. The credit oversights system for checking non-compliance and detecting misconduct has been fully established. An investigation system has been formed, and laws, regulation, incentives, and sanctions have all been fully effected.

The social credit system is expected to be fully and completely functional by 2020. The government intends to have a file on every citizen, both natives and foreigners alike. They aim to collect information on everyone’s social behavior, conduct, and biometric data.

In January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, American investor, and activist, George Soros ruled the dictates of the social credit system as infringements upon the citizens’ fundamental rights [6]. “I find the social credit system frightening and abhorrent. It will subordinate the fate of the individual to the interests of the one-party state in ways unprecedented in history,” he said. There are supposed to be other methods of punishments other than restricting people from gaining access to public transportation for up to a year. It is also believed that they may begin to restrict access to education in` the near future.

References:

  1. O’Kane, Sean. China will ban people with poor ‘social credit’ from planes and trains. The Verge.
  2. Kostka, Genia. China’s social credit systems and public opinion: Explaining high levels of approval. Sage Pub.
  3. Reisinger, Don. China banned 23 Million people from traveling last year due to poor social credit scores. Fortune.
  4. McDonald, Joe. China bars millions from travel for ‘social credit’ offenses. Associated Press News.
  5. Daum, Jeremy. China through a glass, darkly. China Law Translate.
  6. Laursen, Lucas. George Soros at Davos: Five takeaways from his big speech. Fortune.
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