Authorities in Hejiang county, China’s Sichuan province, have come up with a controversial method of convincing borrowers to pay up their debts – showing their faces and names during short clips played in cinemas before the main movie starts.
Called “Reel of Shame”, the clip features an animated character who tells the audience “Come look at these laolai” before showing the borrowers’ faces, names and other details on the big screen. The derogatory term ‘laolai’ refers to borrowers who fail to pay their debts on time. To maximize the technique’s effectiveness, authorities show the borrowers’ faces in cinemas in their local area.
“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,” Li Qiang, director of enforcement for Hejiang’s courts, told Chinese website The Cover. “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.”
A video of the Reel of Shame playing in a Hejiang cinema recently went viral on China’s microblogging platform Weibo. It showed the faces and names of 26 business executives who had defaulted on their loans despite local court orders demanding they pay up.
Interestingly, the Reel of Shame is just one of several public shaming methods used in China. Last year, the Government rolled out a national system allowing borrowers’ names, identity card numbers, photographs, home addresses and the amounts owed to be made public and propagated through various channels as a way of coercing them to pay their debts.
Some cities put the borrowers’ photos and information on advertising billboards, electronic screens and even buses, while provinces like Jiangsu, Henan and Sichuan have teamed up with telecom companies to have pre-recorded messages about their debts play whenever someone calls these offenders.
I guess China isn’t as concerned about privacy as countries in the West…
Public shaming has also been used by a public utilities company in Russia, which recently installed a heavy Pyramid of Debt in front of the houses of its biggest debtors.