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Beijing vows ‘social credit’ won’t hurt people’s rights

BloombergBEIJING (Bloomberg) — A Chinese official pushed back against concerns that the nation’s plan to grade individuals on their behavior would violate its citizens’ legal rights and limit access to basic public services.

The so-called social credit system can be combined with various incentives to encourage people to be better citizens, but can’t be used to punish them, Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of China’s top economic planner, said at a briefing on Thursday.

China’s ambitious plan to develop a nationwide system that tracks and scores individuals’ behavior, though nascent, has stirred concerns that people could be unduly punished for violations they either didn’t commit, or have tried to rectify. The system has also been criticized by the U.S., with Vice President Mike Pence calling it an Orwellian model for authoritarian regimes around the globe.

“Low social credit scores cannot be used to restrict a person’s access to basic public services and legal rights,” said Lian, a deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission. “The media is very concerned about this issue. There have been some inappropriate instances in the past, but these have been standardized and corrected.”

China does maintain a blacklist of individuals who have violated court rulings. The supreme court manages the list, and those on it can’t do things like play golf, travel first-class on the bullet train, stay in hotels with a 4-star or above rating, or send their children to expensive private schools.

However, there are multiple “social credit” systems across the nation, and there is a lack of clarity both inside and outside China as how they work and what they can or cannot do.

An anti-rumor website affiliated with the Cyberspace Administration of China last month denied online rumors about a student who was rejected by the nation’s most prestigious universities despite high scores on the national college entrance exam, allegedly because her parents were classified as “dishonest.”

According to the post, the story has circulated for a long time with different names, but no such punishment actually exists.

The NDRC on Thursday also released new guidelines for regulating companies based on a separate credit system currently in place, promising more severe penalties for the worst offenders including a permanent ban from the market.

Multiple government agencies are working to fine-tune the system so that firms with bad records face more scrutiny while those with good histories don’t face overly onerous inspections, Lian said.Speech

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