Chinese Authorities Use COVID Tracking App to Thwart Protests

Demonstrators have been unable to access their money in banks for several weeks.

QUICK FACTS:
  • Chinese citizens organized a protest after being denied access to frozen bank funds.
  • The government stopped the protest, thanks to the COVID surveillance app, making it impossible for the protesters to travel. 
  • Would-be-protesters planned to travel to the province of Henan this week to protest a two-month block on accessing an estimated $178 million of deposits.
  • This move by the Chinese government is the fruition of what rights groups warned about, saying that the government could use COVID surveillance infrastructure to stop dissenters.
  • Thanks to programs put in place during COVID lockdowns, citizens are unable to access public transport and public spaces, such as restaurants and malls, and are not allowed to travel across the country.
IMPACTED INDIVIDUALS’ HAVE SPOKEN OUT:
  • The National Health Commission told reporters Thursday that “the use of health codes should not be expanded without authorization and cannot be assigned other than in connection with the prevention and control of the epidemic.”
  • That was contradicted by a depositor from Sichuan province surnamed Chen, who declined to use his full name for fear of government retribution, but claimed that the government is “putting digital handcuffs on us.”
  • Wang Qiong lives in the central city of Wuhan and found her health code red after she registered to travel to Henan on June 11: “The police had my identity details from the last time I went to protest in April,” said Wang, who claims to have lost access to 2.3 million yuan ($341,550).
BACKGROUND:
  • COVID-19 passports were used in the United States and around the world, and while countries used varying criteria, the overarching theme included government involvement in free association, causing Americans to point out its contradiction to the First Amendment. 
  • International travelers are still required to present COVID-19 tests and/or proof of vaccinations to enter some countries, many times with the requirement that it be “digitally verified” leading to questions about potential fraud or misuse.