This screening of Avengers: Endgame began with public shaming of local debtors
Local court showed photos of debtors on the cinema screen
Usually, filmgoers get to see trailers and commercials before the movie begins. When you’re in China, you see the names and blown-up headshots of debtors, as well.
The practice, courtesy of the Liandu District People’s Court in Zhejiang province, has been going on for a year now, according to the court’s WeChat post. The aim is to pressure deadbeats to pay up.
But people who attended Wednesday’s Avengers: Endgame premiere in one theater were also treated to what the court called “an Easter egg”: A 30-second film, accompanied by dramatic background music, listing the consequences of failing to repay your debts. That includes being detained, fined or blacklisted from taking flights and high-speed trains.
The court apparently thinks the film is a brilliant idea and plans show it in more cinemas. It claims that over the past year, some 80 debtors have paid up after seeing their pictures and names plastered on the big screen or digital billboards on the streets.
Law enforcement in China has increasingly turned to public shaming to persuade citizens to abide by the law. Cities have installed giant displays at crosswalks dedicated to showing the faces of jaywalkers (even though they don’t always work as intended). One court created a WeChat mini program that alerts users when a debtor is nearby.
The Supreme Court also maintains a public blacklist of “discredited” individuals who are accused of a wide range of misdeeds, from swindling customers to causing trouble in hospitals.
Authorities like to tout the efficacy of the practice. More than 3 million people and businesses have repaid their debts and outstanding taxes last year after being shamed, the National Public Credit Information Centre said.
There are still questions over personal privacy and fairness, though. Some debtors have said their blacklist status alienates them from potential customers and business partners, making it impossible to repay their debts and remove themselves from the list.