China to bar people with bad ‘social credit’ from trains, planes

China said it will begin applying its so-called social credit system to flights and trains and stop people who have committed misdeeds from taking such transport for up to a year.

People who would be put on the restricted lists included those found to have committed acts like spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights, as well as those who used expired tickets or smoked on trains, according to two statements issued on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) website on Friday.

Those found to have committed financial wrongdoings, such as employers who failed to pay social insurance or people who have failed to pay fines, would also face these restrictions, said the statements which were dated March 2.

It said the rules would come into effect on May 1.

The initiative comes as Chinese internet users grow increasingly concerned about user privacy and how the country’s technology giants are handling personal information.

In China, laws require companies to store users’ data on servers in the country, and mainland tech companies reportedly pass on data when the Chinese government makes a request.

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In January this year, Alipay operator Ant Financial Services apologised for making the opt-in to its social credit scoring service the default when users opened a new report in the app, a move that angered some people who felt the company was misleading them into handing over their data.

Ant Financial is an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post.

The NDRC announcement was in line with President’s Xi Jinping’s plan to construct a social credit system based on the principle of “once untrustworthy, always restricted”, said one of the notices which was signed by eight ministries, including the country’s aviation regulator and the Supreme People’s Court.

China has flagged plans to roll out a system that will allow government bodies to share information on its citizens’ trustworthiness and issue penalties based on a so-called social credit score.

There are signs, however, that the use of social credit scoring on domestic transport could have started years ago.

Early this year, the country’s Supreme People’s Court said during a press conference that 6.15 million Chinese citizens had been banned from taking flights for social misdeeds.

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