Millions of Chinese travelers were banned from buying airline tickets last year because of outstanding social credit offenses.
According to the Associated Press, individuals were blocked from buying tickets 17.5 million times last year for such offenses as unpaid taxes and fines. Data from to the National Public Credit Information Center also showed that travelers were barred 5.5 million times from purchasing train tickets, while 128 people were blocked from leaving the country because of unpaid taxes.
The Chinese government has been using the social credit system since 2014 in select areas across the country, with the aim of implementing a nationwide system by 2020. Offenders face possible penalties, including restrictions on travel, business and education access. In fact, a slogan used by the state media warned, “Once you lose trust, you will face restrictions everywhere.”
Last May, a former deputy director of China’s Development Research Center of the State Council, Hou Yunchun, said the country’s social credit system is necessary so that “discredited people become bankrupt.”
The country is also reportedly looking to use the system to prevent people who spread fake news about terrorism, or create problems on flights, from using transportation for as long as a year.
Companies can be subjected to social credit penalties, with some offenses seen last year including false advertising or violating drug safety rules. Potential penalties included losing government contracts and access to loans, as well as being prohibited from issuing bonds or importing goods. Individuals were also stopped 290,000 times from being hired for senior management jobs, or acting as a company’s legal representative.
The country sees the system as a success, with the Information Center saying it has caused 3.5 million people to “voluntarily fulfill their legal obligations.”
However, human rights activists have cautioned that the system is too rigid, and could unfairly label people without informing them of their lost status or how to go about fixing it.