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China: National Pandemic Prevention policy Used as a Private Weapon

China: National Pandemic Prevention policy Used as a Private Weapon

The Chinese government effectively stopped a bank run by identifying individuals planning to withdraw funds and restricting their movement by applying false COVID tags. 

Here’s what happened: 

Thousands of people who traveled to Zhengzhou over the past two months to withdraw funds after at least four major banks in the Henan province froze an estimated $1.5 billion in deposits were shocked when their health QR codes spontaneously turned red. The codes, which must be scanned to enter public venues and utilize public transportation, flagged them as having COVID or being high-risk for infection. Users with red codes are unable to enter public venues or utilize public transportation.

Liu, 39, traveled from Beijing to Zhengzhou in June to access his savings account after having been locked out of his bank since April. His QR code flashed red at a train station in Zhengzhou despite having tested negative for coronavirus the day previous. 

“Sooner or later, this sort of thing is going to happen to us all,” wrote an anonymous social media user. “National pandemic prevention policy has been reduced to a private weapon.”

China’s health QR code system tracks individuals using mobile phones and social media apps (including WeChat). The goal is to alert individuals when they may have come into contact with the virus and to prevent infected individuals from traveling – but as has already been demonstrated – the potential for misuse is high. 

“The health code should have been used to prevent the spread of the pandemic, but now it has deviated from its original role and become something like a good citizen certificate,” laments Qiu, a teacher in Henan province. 

Qiu’s QR code flashed red shortly after he messaged a friend on WeChat asking if he had been affected by the bank freeze. Qiu’s wife, who is not a depositor with said bank, did not show a red code when he used her phone to scan the same QR code from Zhengzhou. “I called the government hotline in Zhengzhou to complain about my red code, and they told me there was some error with the Big Data information database.”

The system itself is controversial as it relies on massive amounts of personal data including location, travel history, health status, and recent contacts. In May 2020, Beijing announced four sets of information that would need to be collected in order for the QR code system to function properly:

  1. Personal information including name, gender, ethnicity, government ID, address, phone number, blood type, and health history. 
  2. Physiological information such as body temperature, symptoms, recent contacts, and location information regarding COVID hot spots. 
  3. Travel history including former residences, areas visited, and present location.
  4. Health certification information resulting from assessments conducted by health officials and recent COVID tests.

An updated set of information released in December 2020 included financial data held by banks and other institutions. 

As you can see, the information needed is far-reaching but vague, giving the program grounds to collect whatever information is deemed necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This sort of tool in the hands of the Chinese government can be nothing other than a weapon of suppression.

“The health code, like many algorithmic-based systems in China and around the world, lacks transparency. Exactly how companies designed the app and the criteria they use to categorize people remain unclear,” argues Xie Yang, a human rights lawyer whose health code turned red just as he was about to depart for Shanghai to visit the mother of a journalist who was imprisoned for reporting on the initial outbreak in Wuhan. 

“It is also hard to know whether the system allows local governments to tamper with it as a means to prevent protests,” adds Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The opacity of the health code, the ability of it to arbitrarily control people’s movement while giving people few means to effectively appeal the app’s decision, makes it an especially abusive system.”


How the Totalitarian Chinese Government Stops a Bank Run 

China: The QR code System – a battle between privacy and public interests?

China’s bank run victims planned to protest. Then their Covid health codes turned red 

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  1. PEte

    The lock down here was about people control

    • Joe

      You can bet Biden and Garland would do exactly that if they could!

  2. tom

    I think originally the app was a good thing with good intentions of controlling the spread of disease. As is always with the Communist Party of China, they have realized how to weaponize the app to solidify their power. What most people do not understand about China is that it is an expert in “dual use technologies” which are technologies used for good societal purposes and products but that can also have military use which would include population control. China has used this strategy ever since it opened up to the West.

    • frank stetson

      When we audit the pandemic responses, South Korea, China, UAE, Taiwan, and New Zealand will emerge as real winners in the pandemic response. The US will suck. Both Biden and Trump responses, but Trump set the stage making Biden’s job so much harder, at least by the numbers.

      Critical in that response were lockdowns and lockouts, the winning countries were much faster and more severe than the US. They worked, our response did not.

      However, post vaccinations, many countries reversed policy, trusting the vaxes to reduce hospitalization and death, and began loosening restrictions right in the face of the Delta surge. They won, again, and we lost. In South Korea, as an example, their cases surged well beyond anything we saw —– mostly because they had not been infected in previous surges due to the lockdowns. But hospitalizations and death were much lower, and manageable. For some reason, China kept the lockdowns going and the surges still happened so they did not see benefit as the vaccines were working but the Chinese didn’t take advantage and instead felt all the pain of yet another lockdown.

      Many new ap’s etc. were tried in this, there were failures, errors, funny things —– and in the case of China, it sounds like abuse. There is always a risk. In South Korea, the “ap” would alarm folks but mentioning pretty specifically where the target was. So the man who, upstanding and normal, was visiting a sex-abuse-clinic for other reasons got the broadcast of his life and they name him and where he was at the sex-abuse-clinic at the time. Pretty funny really, but one could see where that’s not the best outcome for the ap. In NJ, we can track, voluntarily, but because of that, only 10% do which means the ap is a failure. Too bad, it could have automated all close contacts, contact tracing, anonymously, effortlessly allowing folks to step back for a few days if close contact. Instead, we didn’t and just continued potentially infecting folks before we knew it was time for a test. Just not sure how much liberty I gained by not knowing anonymous close contacts.

      Even when covid wanes, if it does, we are not done. And the US better figure out how to do a better job in response because we just did not have to set this many people free by sending them to their maker. The US response just sucked, Trump or Biden. The CDC destroyed it’s credibility and integrity, and we need to fix it before the next disaster of a pandemic.

      • Ben

        Biden’s job is hard because he’s too damned stupid to do it

    • Fred

      Just like the communist party in America weaponized the department of justice against the citizens. They are no different than the Chinese communists

  3. David Dutra

    It looks like China is finding out that they shouldn’t have opened that Pandora’s Box !
    Politicians pointing fingers, calling names and trying to make themselves look good by trying to make the other side of the isle look bad is really getting to the point that were left tu choose the lesser of 2 evils…
    GEORGE WASHINGTONS FAREWELL ADDRESS explains “EXACTLY” what is happening in this country and why ! The 2 party system has us at odds with eachother to the “EXTREME”!!!