Debtors Are Being Shamed In China In A New Unique Way


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The Authorities in the Hejiang county of Chinese province Sichuan have come with a very different way to convince the borrowers to pay the debts. They have started showing their faces and names in a short clip that is played in cinemas before the movie starts. The clip is called “Reel of Shame.” It features an animated character who tells the audience to “Come look at these laolai” before the main movie starts and shows the name, faces and other details on the screen.

The term laolai refers to the borrowers who fail to pay their debts in time. To increase the effect of the technique, the authorities are showing the borrower’s face in cinemas in the local area of the borrower. Li Qiang, director of enforcement for Hejiang’s court said, “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.”

The video of the Reel of Shame being played in a Hejiang cinema has gone viral on China’s microblogging website. It has shown faces and name of 26 business executives who have not returned their loans despite the court orders. The Reel of Shame is another way of public shaming which is used in China. Previously, the Government rolled out a national system which showed the borrower’s name, ID numbers, pictures, home addresses, and the amounts owed to be made public through various channels. Some cities put the photos and information on billboards, electronic screens, and buses.

The provinces of Jiangsu, Henan, and Sichuan also took another step by teaming up with telecom companies to play a pre-recorded message about their debts whenever someone calls them. China is least concerned about privacy issues, unlike other companies. The method of public shaming has also been used in Russia by a public utility company which installed a Pyramid of Debt in front of the houses of the debtors.

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