China to bar flower-pickers, litterbugs from parks using ‘social credit’ scheme

Beijing authorities plan to roll out facial recognition to help identify and blacklist “uncivilised” people from entering public parks.

Nearly two million visitors descended on the city’s municipal parks this weekend when many Chinese celebrated tomb-sweeping day, a public holiday to honour one’s ancestors.

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But the festivities also led to an onslaught of poor behaviour in public parks, including climbing peach trees, picking flowers, damaging plants, fishing without permits, and hawking wares illegally inside the parks, according to a state media report.

Park officials are hoping the technology will compel “loutish travellers” to follow the rules – for instance, not smoking in certain areas and only setting up barbecues in allowed spots.

This isn’t the first time local authorities have used surveillance technologies to inspire better behaviour amongst citizens. In 2017, six face scanners were installed near the busiest toilet in the Temple of Heaven, a major tourist attraction, after reports of an increasing number of local residents stealing loo rolls from the facilities.

People visit the Yuhuatai Martyrs Memorial Park on the first day of the Qingming Festival Credit:

Visitors now need to make eye contact with a computer before the dispenser spits out a few sheets. Anyone wanting more than a single serving of toilet paper must wait an additional nine minutes.

China’s national tourism board have started blacklisting travellers “who failed to observe public order,” for instance by “disturbing the peace, climbing on statues and stealing scenic assets.”

It’s part of a wider, years-long campaign to encourage better manners while travelling, both at home and abroad. Causing a scene at airports or on an airplane can now lead to placement on a “no-fly” list. 

And when Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympic Games authorities issued handbooks to residents urging them not to spit in public and reminding them to wait in line for their turn.

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