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 travellers 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 behaviour.
Some 5.5 million people were barred from buying train tickets, according to the National Public Credit Information Center.
In an annual report, it said 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.