China has announced that its efforts to punish citizens who commit minor offenses resulted in 23 million people being banned from planes and trains in 2018.
According to the Associated Press, China’s National Public Credit Information Center, said that during 2018, people who wanted airplane tickets were blocked from buying then 17.5 million times.
About 5.5 million people were blocked from buying train tickets, the center said. It also reported that 128 people who owe taxes were prevented from traveling outside the country.
The report added a slogan: “Once discredited, limited everywhere,” The Guardian reported.
The “social credit” system started taking shape in China in 2014.
Offenders on the list can be guilty of not paying taxes, jaywalking, smoking on a train, walking their dogs without a leash or taking drugs.
In addition to travel bans, individuals with low social credit scores can be banned from buying insurance, real estate or investment products.
The Chinese report said that more than 14 million data points of “untrustworthy conduct” were recorded in 2018 last year, including scams, unpaid loans, false advertising and occupying reserved seats on a train.
The Chinese system has been criticized by Vice President Mike Pence, according to a White House document.
“Today, China has built an unparalleled surveillance state, and it’s growing more expansive and intrusive …,” Pence said in an Oct. 4 briefing.
“And by 2020, China’s rulers aim to implement an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life — the so-called ‘Social Credit Score.’ In the words of that program’s official blueprint, it will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven, while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step,” Pence said.
Journalist Liu Hu knows what can happen when an individual is targeted for punishment, the Globe and Mail reported. The journalist, who reported on corruption and ruffled government feathers, one day tried to buy a plane ticket and was refused.
He then learned he had been barred from buying property, taking out a loan or traveling on the country’s top-tier trains.
“There was no file, no police warrant, no official advance notification. They just cut me off from the things I was once entitled to,” he said. “What’s really scary is there’s nothing you can do about it. You can report to no one. You are stuck in the middle of nowhere.”
One human rights advocate warned that China’s system, which remains a work in progress, is not a model for others, according to Wired.
“Often comparisons are drawn between private applications like Uber and its rating system for customers and drivers. While these private company systems are extremely problematic in my view, they are fundamentally different,” said Samantha Hoffman, a non-resident fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
“The People’s Republic of China is an authoritarian country, the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for gross human rights violations for decades… There is nothing any liberal democratic society should even think about copying in the social credit system.”
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