Beijing [China], June 22 (ANI): Several activists and netizens criticized Chinese authorities for using the COVID-19 health app to stifle dissent.
In the latest attempt to restrict mobility, Chinese authorities misused the health app code to stop depositors who had lost access to their funds, from protesting against local banks in the Henan province, reported The Singapore Post.
In the early pandemic time, China had developed a colour-coded smartphone app to track the movement of people in its effort to control the spread of COVID-19 and implement its zero-COVID policy.
The government had used mobile apps to identify and isolate people who might be spreading COVID-19.
Recent media reports stated that authorities in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, used the required codes to restrict the movement of people upset because local banks had frozen their deposits, reported The Singapore Post.
Hundreds of depositors who were unable to withdraw money recently planned to travel to Zhengzhou to protest against local banks which had frozen their accounts on the ground that internal systems were being upgraded.
Upon arrival, many found that the so-called health codes on their phones had turned from green to red. Red meant they couldn't travel, and the protests fizzled. The red code seemed to target only depositors. Without a green code on their smartphone app, citizens lost access to public transport and spaces such as restaurants and malls, as well as the right to travel across the country.
A red code -- usually suggesting infection or close contact -- indicated he or she posed a public health risk.
The news report suggested that the police held several people and prevented them from moving around. Several people claimed that they have been forced to quarantine, or denied access to public transportation or buildings, The Singapore Post.
The local banks namely New Oriental Country Bank of Kaifeng, ZhechengHuanghuai Community Bank, ShangcaiHuimin County Bank, and YuzhouXin Min Sheng Village Bank have faced difficulties providing cash withdrawals.
However, the banks froze deposits on April 18 which led to angry protests last month, reported The Singapore Post.
Meanwhile, rights groups have come down heavily on authorities for using its vast COVID surveillance infrastructure to prevent protests. Many took to the Chinese social media platforms raising questions about the move.
Hu Xijin, a popular Chinese commentator and former newspaper editor, said "health codes" should be used solely for the purpose of preventing pandemics.""If any area uses health codes to restrict people's movements for other purposes, this is clearly a breach of pandemic prevention laws... and damages the support of the people for our fight against the virus," he said. (ANI)