China Is Testing 'The Ringtone Of Shame' For Debtors

In some areas, people will get a special warning when calling the ‘laolai’ listed by the government as falters.

In China, the coercive  Social Credit System which has been in the works since 2014 keeps on expanding its impact on the population’s life. The 13 million individuals currently registered on the blacklists of the government (which anyone can access to) are seeing their lives getting harder and harder on a daily basis.

The Discredited Individuals, called "laolai" in Chinese, are banned from "spending on luxuries", which includes "air travel and fast trains", the South China Morning Post reported in March.


By the end of 2018, the system had declined 17,5 million flights and 5,5 million train rides. The debtors can no longer rent apartments using their name and are facing great difficulties to find (and keep) a job. And that’s in addition to the constant humiliation they face in public areas.  By 2020, the party intends to implement the system for good all over the country. Until then, the government is testing a way to identify falters in some regions: a ringtone of shame and a warning message.

Humiliating A Minority To Better Control Everyone Else

Business Insider reports that some local phone operators have assigned special ringtones to warn people that they’re calling "laolai", asking them to "please urge the person" to pay what they owe. Thank you very much.

This campaign is operating since 2017, and debtors cannot cancel the ringtone by themselves unless they repay their debts, according to the China Daily. 


"All mobile phone numbers registered under their name will be covered by the ringtone", said Pan Xingjun with the court of Jiangsu.

Since he arrived in power in 2012, president Xi Jinping has made the battle against corruption and tax fraud his number one priority. He has been implementing a name and shame policy, putting the faces of the debtors on billboards in movie theaters and getting rid of all the corrupted people in the government.

The Social Credit System is the culmination of this repressive policy. Currently being tried in several provinces, it already allows to punish people who step out of designated crosswalks, don’t pay their tickets in public transportation, object to military service or share fake news.


By Thibault Prévost, published on 22/05/2019