Fears in China of manipulating the health system to silence citizens

An artificial island is under development in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, central China.Image ANP / SIPA

Complaints about the manipulation of the big data system surfaced in the Chinese media a few days ago. Fraudulent account holders of some discredited banks reported that they were stopped under the guise of preventing coronavirus when they wanted to file a claim with their bank. Once they arrived in Zhengzhou, the hometown of the bank, their “green symbol” jumped to red, even though they posed no health risks. You cannot move freely in China without a green code.

Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, has been the center of a major financial scandal in China for months. In mid-April, all accounts in four regional banks were frozen after one of the shareholders was suspected of “financial crimes”. The man ran away. More than 400,000 account holders are at risk of losing their savings. It is estimated that this involves billions of euros.

In May, protests took place in front of some bank branches, which were subsequently closed by the police. Many scam account holders have also tried to get their money back right away. But account holders who made their way to Zhengzhou in recent days saw their “green code” turn red upon arrival, preventing them from accessing banks. They were taken in by the police, who said their token wouldn’t turn green until they left.

red code

“The police officers confirmed that our frozen money was a legal deposit, but they prevented us from going to the local bank to inquire,” Wang Jin said. Sixth note† The 35-year-old citizen of Hebei wanted to request a refund of €60,000 of his savings, but saw his token turn red as soon as he exited Zhengzhou Train Station. Sixth note Twelve account holders were found to have similar stories, and other media outlets also published testimonials.

“We have reasonable and legitimate claims, but they are using code red as a reason to stop us,” Wang said. This is the use of pandemic politics to prevent people from seeking justice. ”

China’s virus-free policy relies heavily on the health code, which is a personal QR code that can be green, yellow or red. A green code is required to enter or travel anywhere. The yellow symbol restricts freedom of movement, while the red symbol equals mandatory quarantine. Color is usually determined based on contamination risk, based on test results and travel and contact history. But in Zhengzhou it was clearly related to banking details.

The news from Zhengzhou has caused an uproar in China, where there are fears that the big data system for epidemic control will turn into a new form of high-tech surveillance. Earlier, human rights lawyers in New York times That the authorities manipulated his health law to prevent him from traveling. Tighter epidemiological restrictions are also being implemented in the volatile Xinjiang province. But the manipulation is rarely as overt as in Zhengzhou.

public confidence

Chinese state media have also condemned the practices in Zhengzhou, which could undermine public confidence in the big data system. The role of the health code in prevention and control policy is so critical that its scientific nature must be preserved. Global Times† “Disputes at the local level cannot be allowed to jeopardize public confidence and the fight against the epidemic.”

State media presented the manipulation of Zhengzhou’s health law as a local slip, or as a technical problem. Zhengzhou City Council did not respond, but the local government’s helpline said there was a “mistake” that would be “corrected” soon. Already affected account holders saw their red tokens turn green again.

Censored posts on social media show that not everyone in China thinks this is an exception. “The Health Act was designed from the start to maintain social stability (the Chinese term for stifling protests, editor), and is now showing its teeth,” said a censored post on social media Weibo, picked up by the website. China Digital Times† Another: “This is just the beginning. It’s terrifying how bound by the health law we are.”

While the use of a health code is ubiquitous in China, the system is far from foolproof. Truck drivers who constantly get red codes because of their travel history are trying to get around them using different SIM cards. Authorities say the current outbreak in Beijing, which started in a bar, was caused by staff not adequately checking the green codes of customers. There are severe penalties for evading the system.

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