China is known for the strict control that it imposes over the internet and the surveillance that people are subject to. However the government aims to take things even further. Recently, it was announced that the information collected about Chinese citizens’ financial activities, will be used to apply restrictions over their travel movements. The country will penalize people with a lower score on what is known as the “social credit” system, which is based on a criteria that lacks clarity. The system was originally launched in 2012 and it is designed to reward those who are considered as trustworthy, and to place high restrictions on those who are considered as devious. Its full implementation is expected to take place in 2020.
Chinese citizens who do something that could be considered as a breach, could face tough restrictions that can affect them permanently. After all, the document signed by government official states that once someone is considered as untrustworthy, it will always be restricted. One of the limitations imposed states that those who commit an infraction, won’t be be able to travel by train or airplane for one year. These regulations appear in an edict by the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission. While it is understandable that the government takes action against those who act against the law, the problem is that the actions that could result in punishment, go beyond crimes and bad behavior.
If you are having financial difficulties and failed to pay back loans, you could also face restrictions, based on the regulations implemented by Chinese authorities. One of the main concerns regarding the restrictions that are set to be imposed is that it is not clear who decides or how it is decided that someone has a bad credit score in order to prevent them from travelling by train or plane. The measures are taken in an arbitrary manner and someone may end up in the “untrustworthy” list, just based on who they speak with or what they purchase. There is no set criteria, meaning that government officials can take action as they please.
The fact that there are no standards to establish what is considered as an offense is likely to cause people to face penalties, even for small mistakes. Leaving your bike in the wrong side or not making a sincere apology for an infraction could lead to severe issues. There is an example of a lawyer, who was ordered to issue an apology to his client, whom he was said to have defamed. While he did apologize, he issued the apology on April 1st and since it was April Fool’s day, it was considered that the apology was not sincere. He only found out that he has been blacklisted when he was not able to board a plane. This is only a case of many as the regulations have affected millions of citizens over the last few years.
Unfortunately, it is expected that things take an even worse turn, given that it is not known who will run the system or if it is possible to dispute the scores. However, this is not strange in China, considering the overall policies in which human rights are not a priority.