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Zhejiang court uses social media to press debtors into paying up

By Shi Xiaofeng in Hangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-24 07:45

A court in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, has turned to social media to pressure people who deliberately ignore court judgments and refuse to pay what was ordered.

Since September, many scofflaws in the city - plus many in their business circle - have found that advertisements in their WeChat "moments" have been replaced with notices about their failure to pay, identifying them by name and revealing the amount of money owed.

So far, the Ouhai District People's Court has released 20 defaulters' names, photos, partial ID numbers and debt amounts. The blacklist targets those who are able to repay but repeatedly refuse. A total of 10.7 million yuan is owed - from 10,000 yuan up to 3.24 million yuan ($1,500 to $488,000).

"We used big data, and the system chose people living in the same area or working in related industries," said Lin Zhiqiang, an officer of the court.

The targeted advertisements were displayed from Sept 15 to 25.

"I don't know if the measure will actually push the defaulters to follow court rulings and pay their debts. But the information is very useful for businesspeople like me," said Chen Shuang, who runs a private studio in Hangzhou. "It gives me a heads up so that I won't do business with these people or lend money to them."

The court had previously launched Weibo and WeChat accounts and had often published information on defaulters.

"But it is rather passive that way," said Lin, the court official. "By using big data, we can make it more active and effective. The new measure met our original expectations."

In August, the Shunqing District People's Court in Sichuan province put recorded messages on the mobile phones of 20 debtors, informing incoming callers that the person was on a blacklist for failing to pay debts. It asked the callers to urge the person to fulfill their legal obligation.

"We are talking about using the approach in Shunqing district, too. Of course, you can't count on one measure to solve all problems," Lin said. "We will do more trials."

In November 2013, the Supreme People's Court created a blacklist of defaulters that included names and ID numbers. Since June 2014, the top court has been collaborating with government departments, especially rail and civil aviation authorities, to deny defaulters of the ability to travel.

More restrictions have since been implemented. They affect the purchase of luxury items, high-speed railway tickets, first-class seats on slower trains and buying or building houses, as well as renting luxury apartments for work, buying cars, playing golf, eating at hotels and having children study at high-priced schools.

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