- Vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission admits that ‘in the past, there were some inappropriate punishment measures for dishonesty’
- Lian Weiliang also denied that there was any mechanism for sharing social credit information with authorities in Hong Kong
China's controversial social credit system will not result in individuals or companies losing access to public services, a senior government official said.
Lian Weiliang, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's state planner, said that "in the past, there were some inappropriate punishment measures for dishonesty in some regions, which have already been regulated and corrected".
The social credit system assigns both positive and negative scores for individual or corporate behaviour in an attempt to put pressure on citizens to behave. In February, a report showed that millions of Chinese individuals and businesses had been placed on an official blacklist which froze them out of access to finance, or even booking airline or rail tickets.
The system is designed to create negative incentives for "untrustworthy" behaviour, though Lian said the government is working on tweaks that would reward good credit, on top of cheaper access to public services and loans.
He said that a market entity would only be punished if it was included on the blacklist, and that the decision on whether to blacklist a person or a company would go through due process.
However, Lian warned that those individuals and enterprises displaying the "most serious, untrustworthy conduct", which could negatively impact the lives or property of other citizens, could be taken out of the system permanently.
Speaking after the State Council released a new policy on Tuesday to clarify the social credit system's role in regulation, Lian confirmed that offenders' credit records will be kept on record for a long time, even after they have been taken off blacklists.
"The repairing of the credit of untrustworthy entities will not simply whitewash their record or relieve the punishment on them," Lian said.
Scheduled to be in full use by next year, the social credit system is China's most ambitious project in social engineering since the Cultural Revolution. It is expected to give each of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score, in what is being described as a "carrot-and-stick" mechanism to create an "honest society".
However, critics have claimed that it will increase government control over people's lives, resulting in higher levels of oppression, through increasing the collection and sharing of personal data.
By the end of June, China had named 14.43 million debt defaulters since the system was launched in October 2013. It has stopped 26.82 million people from buying air tickets and 5.96 million from travelling on the high-speed rail network, according to data unveiled by the NDRC earlier this week.
Lian also said that Beijing does not have a mechanism to share social credit information with Hong Kong. The names of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were removed from the Chinese government's website this week to avoid any misunderstanding that it will be implemented locally.
"The construction of all credit systems should strictly be in accordance with laws and regulations. The building of (a) credit (system) in Hong Kong would be in line with relevant requirements of the Basic Law," Lian said, when asked if Hong Kong would establish the system.
Lian said that there was no law or regulation at present on cross-regional information sharing between Hong Kong and the mainland.
"The sharing would only happen if we had enacted related laws and regulations," he said. "If we wanted to share cross-regional information, we must follow the laws and regulations."
Concerns about local implementation of the social credit system rose after an action plan from 2018 to 2020 was issued by the Guangdong province earlier this month. This was alleged by media reports in Taiwan to be a means of accelerating the system in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area .
After Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were discovered to be listed mainland authorities' official website for the system, known as Credit China, Hong Kong's Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, took to Facebook to deny that Hong Kong would be included.
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