China’s central bank drops hammer on a lending firm after it marks client’s profession as a prostitute

·3-min read

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, suspended a lending firm’s ability to access the country’s financial credit system after a sensational case in which a client was described as a prostitute in official documents.

A branch of the lending company Jinshang Consumer Finance in Nantong, in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, is accused of saying a client worked as a “professional chicken” – a euphemism for a prostitute – for 10 years.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) banned a small lending firm from accessing credit scores after it described a client as a prostitute. Photo: Bloomberg
The People's Bank of China (PBOC) banned a small lending firm from accessing credit scores after it described a client as a prostitute. Photo: Bloomberg

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The mainland news portal people.com.cn reported on Monday that the woman, surnamed Fang, took out a three-year loan worth 162,000 yuan (US$25,300) in 2018.

In early April, Fang discovered that her occupation information in the company’s credit system read “professional chicken”, so she filed a complaint to the People’s Bank of China, the mainland’s central bank.

She is also seeking compensation for damages to her reputation.

It’s not clear why the company put Fang’s occupation as a prostitute. Fang said the company has not yet contacted her to give a reason for the error.

Fang still owes around 70,000 yuan (US$11,000) of the loan, including interest. She applied to postpone the full completion of the repayment, citing the coronavirus outbreak as her reason, the report said.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the PBOC said that it talked with the management of the lending firm two days after receiving Fang’s complaint last month and ordered it to correct its mistake.

At the mediation with the central bank, Jinshang Consumer Finance deleted the comments and admitted they had uploaded “inappropriate information” to the system.

Reports of the incident have gone viral. The story has been viewed 410 million times on Weibo, with more than 8,700 comments left on the platform.

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The PBOC visited the headquarters of Jinshang Consumer Finance, located in Taiyuan in the central province of Shanxi, on Tuesday.

The central bank decided to suspend Jinshang’s access to the national credit system starting on Wednesday. The PBOC also required the company to reflect on how the incident happened, respond to the client’s request and eliminate adverse social impacts.

“[The firm] should carry out a thorough investigation and hold those responsible accountable,” the statement said. The PBOC also urged the lender to strengthen internal management and take responsibility.

Jiang Wenhua, a credit collection department official from the central bank, said the national credit system is a platform with data inputted by financial institutions.

“The company that sends the information is responsible for that information,” he was quoted as saying. “If a client does not agree with the information in the system, he or she can resort to the complaint handling procedure.”

The lending company in question is headquartered in Taiyuan, a city in central China. Photo: Xinhua
The lending company in question is headquartered in Taiyuan, a city in central China. Photo: Xinhua

On Weibo, the scandal reminded people about the precarious nature of personal information in modern society.

“What if she had not found it? Does it mean that this information will stay in the system forever?” wrote one user.

Another wrote: “A small lending firm has the right to change a person’s personal information. It is a farce! It will cause a social death for that person.”

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