A morality bank in a northeastern Chinese city has seen residents flocking to open accounts that enable them to exchange good deeds for free services.
Citizens in Yanji, Jilin province, can accumulate credits with the bank, operated by Danying Community, through tasks such as collecting plastic bags off the streets (10 points), handing in lost wallets (50 points) and donating blood (200 points).
Top credit-earning deeds include helping others in a dangerous situation (300 to 500 points) and donating hematopoietic stem cells (1,000 points).
Credits can be exchanged for rewards such as a free haircut (150 points), home cleaning (500 points) or a health check (1,200 points). People who collect more than 6,000 points will win the accolade "Models of Community Morals".
More than 600 citizens have opened accounts since the bank was established on May 14, said Wang Shuqing, a community official. "The phones have not stopped ringing," she said.
Emerging as a novel way to encourage kind acts in 2002 in several Chinese cities including Changsha and Wenzhou, morality banks have their critics, who say the programme sullies good deeds because of its materialistic nature.
A college in central Hunan in 2007 also courted controversy by linking morality bank accounts with the performance evaluation of its students.
However, proponents argue that rewarding good deeds is important in a society allegedly struggling with a "moral decline".
"It is meaningful to record good people and good deeds with these moral points and use them as a standard for reward," said Zhang Yanyan, a local resident who opened an account.