A protest planned by hundreds of bank depositors in central China seeking access to their frozen funds has been thwarted because the authorities have turned their health code apps red, meaning they could no longer move about freely. They had carried green health codes when they left their hometowns, said the people, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals.
Their health codes turned red when they scanned in at the central train station of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province. The depositors were planning to travel to the central province of Henan this week from across China to protest against an almost two-month block on accessing at least $178 million of deposits, which has left companies unable to pay workers and individuals unable to access savings.
Reuters reports that without a green code on their smartphone app, citizens lose access to public transport and spaces such as restaurants and malls and the right to travel across the country. In addition, rights groups have warned China could use its vast Covid surveillance infrastructure to stifle dissent.
“They are putting digital handcuffs on us,” said a depositor from Sichuan province surnamed Chen, who declined to use his full name for fear of government retribution.
China has a policy with the objective of ‘zero-covid.’ That means people who test positive are immediately isolated, as are close contacts.
Last week, a handful of cases sent most of the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai’s 25 Million people Into lockdown again because new Covid cases were detected. As a result, the authorities announced they would be conducting mass testing. Last weekend, some 23 million people were tested. Those who tested negative for Covid were then given a QR code that allowed them to participate in public life.
Chinese-style social-credit system
Conservatives have long warned that health-code apps would be used to track people beyond their intended purpose. The leader of the Dutch party Forum for Democracy (FvD), Thierry Baudet, commented on Twitter about what is happening in China:
“And that’s why our ‘leaders’ find the corona pass so interesting: if citizens are planning something that they don’t like, you just put their QR codes on red, and they have nowhere to go.”
En daarom vinden onze ‘leiders’ de coronapas zo interessant: als burgers iets van plan zijn dat je niet aanstaat, zet je hun QR-codes gewoon op rood en kunnen ze nergens meer heen. Gebeurt nu in China.https://t.co/7A1MRb3cuR— Thierry Baudet (@thierrybaudet) June 15, 2022
Government-issued QR-code health passes are laying the foundation for a global social credit system that will give them the power to control citizens and punish those they deem “untrustworthy.”
Under China’s nascent social credit system, citizens are given a credit score based on their online and offline behavior. It’s a system that rewards “good” behavior like spending time with the elderly while punishing “bad” behavior like protesting the government or spending too much time playing video games, explains author Tim Hinchliffe.
When “trust” is broken in one area, restrictions are placed everywhere — meaning citizens who commit even minor infractions can be blacklisted from traveling, going to restaurants, renting a home, or even having insurance. According to Chinese State-run media, this has happened to over 30 million citizens.