The northern Chinese province of Hebei is looking to technology to warn citizens of nearby debtors and shame the defaulters on social media. The move comes as the country confronts a burgeoning debt burden among small businesses and individuals.
Higher People’s Court of Hebei launched a mini-program dubbed “a map of deadbeat debtors” in Tencent’s messaging app WeChat earlier this month, according to a report in state-owned China Daily.
The app-like mini-program enables users to identify someone who is in debt around them within a 500-meter radius, including individual debtors, legal representatives, and other business organizations.
Prior to this, all the exposed debtors had been put on local government blacklist for not fulfilling their payment obligations, local media chinanews.com (in Chinese) cited a court authority as saying.
China has been facing great pressure from surging levels of corporate debt and fraud. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated the country had roughly RMB 97 billion ($14 billion) in bond defaults in 2018, nearly triple the RMB 35 billion recorded in 2017.
In addition, a number of Chinese companies are relying on new borrowing to offset the existing loans. According to financial company Rong 360’s research arm, a total of 841 Chinese peer-to-peer loan platforms collapsed between February and November, as lenders had trouble withdrawing their money.
In Hebei, debtor’s information now is publicly available in the mini-program, including their names, identification numbers, and partial details of home addresses. It also elaborates why they are on the blacklist, and gives details about court decisions requesting them to clear their dues, and displays a case number created by regional courts.
All the information can be shared on WeChat Moments or to users’ contacts, as a screenshot sent to TechNode by a resident of Hebei surnamed Li showed.
The Hebei court allows users to “whistle-blow on debtors capable of paying their debts” by reporting something helpful to track debtors’ hidden assets within the mini-app.
The mini-program was developed in-house by the court and has been operational since Jan.14, as part of the measures “to enforce rulings and create a socially credible environment,” a spokesperson at the court was cited by China Daily as saying.