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Chinese authorities ‘use Covid tracking system to lock down residents and prevent protests’

Chinese authorities ‘use Covid tracking system to lock down residents and prevent protests’ according to local media

  • Residents must scan codes on their smartphones to go out in public
  • If they receive a ‘code red’, they are subject to severe movement restrictions.
  • There were several reports of disgruntled bank customers receiving red codes
  • It is believed that authorities may have used the codes to prevent a protest.

Authorities in central China allegedly used the country’s powerful Covid-tracking system to stop an anticipated protest, state media reported, prompting furious condemnation online on Wednesday.

China relies on a vast coronavirus surveillance infrastructure to conduct rigorous contact tracing as part of its zero-Covid strategy to end all outbreaks.

Residents must scan codes on their smartphones to access public places and transportation across the country. Those with red codes, whether infected or contacts of a Covid case, have their movement severely restricted.

But several reports emerged this week of disgruntled bank customers receiving code red alerts on their devices as they tried to travel to the Henan provincial capital Zhengzhou to demand access to their money after withdrawals were frozen last month.

‘Seeing this sent chills down my spine. Uncontrolled power is too scary,” wrote a user on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform, where hashtags related to the reports trended Wednesday with tens of millions of views.

“It’s clearly an abuse of power,” read another comment.

Authorities in central China allegedly used the country's powerful Covid-tracking system to stop an anticipated protest (a woman is shown scanning a health QR code on her smartphone)

Authorities in central China allegedly used the country’s powerful Covid-tracking system to stop an anticipated protest (a woman is shown scanning a health QR code on her smartphone)

A health worker takes a swab sample from a man to be tested for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a makeshift testing site outside a shopping mall in Beijing on June 15, 2022.

A health worker takes a swab sample from a man to be tested for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a makeshift testing site outside a shopping mall in Beijing on June 15, 2022.

Residents must scan codes on their smartphones to access public places and transportation across the country.  Those with red codes, whether infected or contacts of a Covid case, have their movement severely restricted.

Residents must scan codes on their smartphones to access public places and transportation across the country. Those with red codes, whether infected or contacts of a Covid case, have their movement severely restricted.

One bank customer was even given a red code despite having a negative PCR virus test when he arrived in the city, state media reported.

Another got it without even leaving their home, while some saw their red codes turn green as they left Zhengzhou, the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, reported.

“This kind of behavior is not only against social morality, but is also suspected of breaking the law,” read a comment published by the outlet.

His former editor and prominent commentator Hu Xijin on Tuesday called it a “violation of pandemic prevention laws” that “harms people’s support for the fight against the virus.”

Zhengzhou health authorities said they were “currently investigating” the situation, but provided no further details.

The Global Times quoted Henan authorities as saying a database flaw may be the cause.

The savings of thousands of customers at four rural banks in Henan have been frozen since mid-April after withdrawals were suddenly halted, as China’s smaller lenders are hit by an economic slowdown that has worsened under lockdown policy. zero covid.

A health worker waits for nucleic acid tests at a testing site, after a recent outbreak of COVID-19, on June 14, 2022 in Beijing, China.

A health worker waits for nucleic acid tests at a testing site, after a recent outbreak of COVID-19, on June 14, 2022 in Beijing, China.

China's zero Covid policy has resulted in massive daily testing and widespread lockdowns in regions with the slightest increase in cases.

China’s zero Covid policy has resulted in massive daily testing and widespread lockdowns in regions with the slightest increase in cases.

The freeze triggered rare street protests last month, with total frozen deposits estimated at up to $1.5 billion, Chinese financial magazine Caixin reported.

China’s banking regulator last month blamed the crisis on alleged mismanagement by bank shareholders and vowed to “severely punish financial crime.”

This is not the first time China’s Covid pass system has come under fire. Rights advocates say it is being used to quell protests and suppress individual rights.

In recent months, some dissidents have claimed their health codes turned red when they tried to travel to major cities to attend trials or petition authorities.

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