Coming to a cinema near you – Chinese debtors ‘reel of shame’

Movie theatres in a county in Sichuan province showing short clips before the main film naming local people who have failed to pay off debts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2018, 2:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2018, 11:36pm

Cinemas in a county in southwest China are showing short clips before the main movie starts to name and shame people who have failed to pay off debts in legal cases, a news website reported.

The initiative comes from courts in Hejiang county in Sichuan province, The Cover reported.

The “reel of shame” features an animated character who tells the audience, “Come look at these laolai”, using the Chinese derogatory term for borrowers who fail to pay money back.

The clip then shows details of debtors in the local area who still owe money on loans, despite local court orders demanding they pay up, the article said.

Details were given in one cinema in the country of 26 business executives defaulting on debts.

Li Qiang, director of enforcement for Hejiang’s courts, told the website: “Public shaming has been an increasingly common tactic to punish laolai … along with other repercussions for failing to repay loans, including blacklisting and travel restrictions.

“For the audiences in the cinema, we specifically chose to expose the names of debtors whose household registration were in that area so it was more targeted and the results would be more effective.”

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The courts are also naming offenders on outdoors electronic screens and though posters on buses.

Other cities in China have used similar tactics to shame debtors. Official figures in April showed courts in China have publicly listed information on more than 10.5 million people who have failed to pay back loans.

Listed offenders have been blacklisted from buying plane tickets 11 million times and from purchasing train tickets nearly 4.3 million times.

China rolled out a national system to expose borrowers who had defaulted on their loans in 2017, allowing their names, identity card numbers, photographs, home addresses and the amounts owed to be published across various channels.

China using facial recognition technology to name and shame jaywalkers

Besides public billboards and screens, courts in provinces such as Jiangsu, Henan and Sichuan have collaborated with telecom operators to play pre-recorded messages about offenders who failed to repay their debts when others tried to call their numbers.

Other areas in China have adopted similar shaming tactics for other offences such as jaywalking, despite public concerns about privacy infringement.

Facial recognition systems have been used in Shenzhen to take photographs of people crossing the street at red lights. Their faces are then shown on public electronic screens.