Starting in May, Chinese citizens who rank low in the burgeoning "social credit" system will be in danger of being excluded from buying plane or train tickets for up to a year, according to recently published statements by the National Development Commission and Reform. .
With the social credit system, the Chinese government rates citizens based on things like criminal behavior and financial misdeeds, but also on what they buy, say and do. Those with low "scores" have to deal with sanctions and restrictions. China has been working to implement a full version of the system by 2020, but there are already some previous versions.
Previously, the Chinese government had focused on restricting the travel of people with large amounts of debt, such as LeEco and Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting, who blacklisted the Supreme People's Court last year.
The new travel restrictions are the latest addition to this growing mosaic of social engineering, which has already imposed penalties on more than seven million citizens. And there is a wide range when it comes to who can be marked. Citizens who broadcast "false information about terrorism," caused "problems" on flights, used expired tickets or were caught smoking on trains could be banned, according to Reuters.
But the system, as it is, is opaque; Apparently, citizens are likely to be singled out for minor infractions, such as leaving bicycles parked on a trail or issuing apologies that are considered "insincere" as the main credit defaulters such as Jia. And often it is not clear if they are on a blacklist in the first place, let alone what kind of resource is available. "The Chinese government authorities clearly hope to create a reality in which bureaucratic pettiness can significantly limit the rights of people," Maya Wang, a senior researcher at the non-profit NGO Human Rights Watch, wrote in December.