Hundreds of people have been unable to access their savings for months amid an investigation into several regional banks. Dozens of these frustrated bank users planned on meeting in the city of Zhengzhou a few days ago to protest the freeze. But before the protest could begin, many would-be participants were stopped in their tracks. A red “health code” labeled them as potential or confirmed COVID-19 patients, despite a complete lack of symptoms or contact history to support the designation.
One such protester told The New York Times that he was on a train to Zhengzhou from a city without any documented COVID-19 cases when his health code turned from green to red. Police stopped him as soon as he reached his destination. The protester was required to wait in a local library for 12 hours before being escorted out of the city, after which his health code suddenly turned green. Another person told Vice her health code turned red right after buying a train ticket to Zhengzhou. A test taken the night before revealed she was COVID-19 negative, and like the other protester, her hometown hadn’t documented any recent cases of the virus.
“The red code was definitely used to limit us [bank] depositors,” the first protester told the Times.
China’s COVID-19 tracker works through Alipay, a regionally popular wallet app. Citizens are issued a green, yellow, or red QR code based on their health status, with the latter two colors restricting one’s ability to travel. These health codes have reportedly been shared with Chinese authorities from the beginning. More than two years ago, the convergence of travel-restricted health designations with law enforcement led the Times to express concern that the system could be used for “automated social control.” Similarly, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch warned back then of “surveillance creep.” Now those fears appear to be coming to fruition.
This isn’t the first time Chinese protesters have accused the government of using health systems to stifle dissent, but it does appear to be the most egregious. A Zhengzhou complaint line has purportedly received several complaints about the health codes’ recent use and is working with the Henan Provincial Health Commission to investigate those claims.
Source From Extremetech
Author: Adrianna Nine