Billionaire’s son is the latest target of China’s social credit system

BEIJING, China — A high-profile Chinese businessman is on the brink of becoming a social outcast and being banned from his lavish spending habits by the courts if he doesn’t pay back $21.5 million debt, even though he is the son a well-known real estate tycoon.

Wang Sicong, the son of the billionaire owner of AMC Theaters, Wang Jianlin, was last week listed in the national database of the Supreme Court of China of debtors and defaulters with outstanding debt. A failure to pay within the given time will see him join the ranks of “discredited” people.

China is experimenting with a score-based social credit system which is designed to create a society of trust and sincerity by rewarding good behavior and punishing the dishonesty. Once someone is discredited, they could face a harsh penalty and a lifelong stain on their character.

Huang Weijun, a former discredited man who owed $86,000 to a company, had to endure many limitations.

“I only had the option of taking a bus to travel from another city to my city, which took more than 20 hours,” Huang said. “My private property was frozen and I wasn’t allowed to sell my house or make investments, before I paid the debt.”

Wang is still one step away from being discredited but is already banned from taking flights, staying at five-star hotels, going to golf clubs, visiting nightclubs, or taking vacations, by order of the court.

Wang has been known for flaunting his wealth on social media. He has used social media to post pictures of his extravagant sports cars and expensive meals and to show that he’d spent $36,000 on a few Apple watches for his pet dog.

Wang’s predicament stemmed from a financial dispute, caused by the bankruptcy of his online game live streaming company Panda TV earlier this year, which landed him a lawsuit.

In October, Wang was banned from high-level spending and the fund of his private equity firm Prometheus Capital was frozen by two courts in Shanghai.

As China’s most famous and outspoken “second generation” rich person, Wang has around 44 million fans on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. But for the past six months, he hasn’t posted any content.

“When he is restricted on high consumption, some of his partners might need to consider if he is financially capable and those who owe money to him might delay the payment,” Hunan-based lawyer Liu Jingcheng said. “It is very bad for his business.”

“If Wang can’t solve this issue, his dad should able to solve this,” Liu said, “But his dad didn’t do so, which might suggest there is some capital issue in his family.”

On Monday, Wang issued a statement through his team on the website of Prometheus Capital.

“Mr. Wang also has many other investments and his other achievements should not be neglected due to his one failure,” the statement reads, “Currently he is doing everything he can to cope with the situation and has already come up with a solution. We are fully capable of solving our problems.”


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