Renowned actress banned from leaving China by social credit system

Chinese actress, 39, is BANNED from leaving the country as she tries to board her plane after she was declared ‘untrustworthy’ by Beijing’s controversial ‘social credit’ system

  • China-born, U.S.-raised Michelle Ye Xuan was stopped at the border in Beijing
  • The star had been blacklisted by the social credit system without her realising
  • She had refused to apologise to her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend after defaming her
  • It remains unclear if Ms Ye was using a Chinese or U.S. passport at the time 
  • Millions of Chinese have been banned from trains and planes by the system
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A well-known actress and former international beauty queen has been banned from travelling out of China after being deemed ‘untrustworthy’ by the country’s social credit system. 

China-born, U.S.-raised Michelle Ye Xuan, 39, only found out about the travel restriction against her when she was about to board a plane in Beijing last month. 

Ms Ye, who won the Miss Chinese International competition at the age of 20, had failed to follow a court order from last year after being found guilty of defaming her then boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend on social media.

China-born, U.S.-raised Michelle Ye Xuan is the first high-profile figure to be punished by Beijing’s controversial social credit system since it was launched in 2014. The star is pictured at a film premier in Beijing in 2014 (left) and at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2010. 

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Ms Ye, who grew up in Hangzhou and New York, is the first high-profile figure to be punished by Beijing’s controversial social credit system, which rates citizens based on their daily behaviour and punishes ‘untrustworthy’ people in as many ways as possible.

Millions of offenders have been penalised since the national system was rolled out in selective cities in 2014.

Having appeared in dozens of mainstream TV shows and films in both Hong Kong and mainland China, Ms Ye is hailed by her fans for her ‘classic Chinese beauty’ appearance and enviable upbringing in the United States since the age of 10. 

She studied in liberal arts institution Wellesley College in Massachusetts, according to information on her verified Weibo account.  

The actress and producer won the Miss Chinese International competition at the age of 20

The court put Ms Ye (pictured) on the blacklist last December because she had failed to remove defamatory social media posts and apologise to the victim following a lawsuit last year

Ms Ye was sued in 2017 by her then boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, Lv Mei. Ms Lv accused Ms Ye of damaging her reputation by spreading malicious rumours about her on China’s Twitter-like Weibo. 

The TV star was found guilty by the Shanghai Xuhui Court in April, 2018. 

The court ordered Ms Ye to stop the defaming activities, delete all related posts from Weibo, issuing a written apology to the victim and give the victim a payout of around 9,600 yuan (£1,088).

Ms Ye was involved in a defamation case against Lv Mei (right), the ex-girlfriend of Ms Ye’s then boyfriend (pictured with Ms Ye, left). Ms Lv accused Ms Ye of damaging her reputation online

According to a court statement, Ms Ye failed to meet the court’s order by the deadline of August. Ms Lv then filed a request to the court for an injunction in September, and Ms Ye failed to answer the subpoena. 

The court said it then put a restriction on Ms Ye’s ability to spend money in China – which the court said the star later broke – and attempted to contact her repeatedly, but the actress did not respond.

As a result, she was blacklisted by the court and banned from leaving the country last December.

After being stopped, Ms Ye deleted the required posts from her social media while at Beijing Capital International Airport (file photo) and handed the apology to the court the same day

Ms Ye was stopped at the border at around 7am on February 24 in Beijing Capital International Airport when her ID matched the data on the blacklist from the national social credit system. 

It remains unclear whether Ms Ye was using a Chinese or U.S. passport at the time. 

A judge of the Shanghai Xuhui Court was immediately notified. The judge contacted Ms Ye, urging her to carry out her legal duty. 

The court said Ms Ye agreed to do so at once. She deleted the required posts from her social media while still at the airport and handed the required apology to the court by noon. 

Ms Ye was also fined 80,000 yuan (£9,000) for her behaviour.  

Ms Ye is yet to comment on the matter. 


China plans to complete building the national social credit system by the end of 2020 after having started out in 2014. 

The system gives citizens scores based on their daily behaviour, and this could range from their bank credit to their social media activities.

Once built, the national system could determine how easy a citizen could rent a flat, buy travel tickets or pay for a cup of tea.

With a tagline of ‘once discredited, everywhere restricted’, it vows to punish ‘untrustworthy’ citizens – many of whom debtors – in all areas of life. 

By the end of 2020, the number of security cameras in China is due to be 600 million

This is all made possible by China’s ever-expanding surveillance network, which currently boasts 200 million AI-powered cameras. The number of security cameras is set to triple in two years when the system is built.

Critics have voiced concerns over the system, claiming it’s a way for the government to invade citizens’ privacy and restrict their freedom.

Some 3.59 million people have been forced to pay off a total of 440 million yuan (£50) debts by March, 2019, after initially refusing to, according to China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which governs the social credit system.

In 2018 alone, nearly 3.6 million individuals were discredited by the nation’s social credit watchdog.

Authorities have blocked more than 17 million attempts to buy flight tickets and more than 5.4 million attempts to buy high-speed train tickets from travellers with unhealthy records by the end of 2018.

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