The Chinese province of Henan is using the application for tracking and storing test results for Covid-19, essential for traveling and accessing public places in China, to prevent protests.
According to Hong Kong television network Phoenix TV, the QR code of people who tried to travel to Henan, after local state-owned banks suspended transfers and withdrawals, suddenly turned red, preventing travel to other territories or access to public places, while arrive in Henan or even before they start their journey.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Chinese local governments have issued these codes, which attest that the user has not been in an area at risk of contagion or in contact with possible infected people.
However, in recent months there have been indications that Chinese authorities are using these codes to prevent unwanted travel.
Phoenix TV reported that a woman, identified by the nickname Ai, said that when she arrived in the capital of Henan province, the city of Zhengzhou, last Sunday, she was visited at the hotel by a policeman, who asked her why she was traveling.
Ai replied that he wanted to withdraw his savings. Shortly after, her health QR code turned red.
Phoenix TV also reported the case of another woman, identified as Xiao Nan, whose QR code turned red even before she left the southeastern city of Shenzhen, apparently related to having about 350,000 yuan (49,800 euros) ) deposited in various banks in Henan.
Local authorities explained to Xiao Nan that it was the Henan provincial government that asked him to be given a code red, although this also prevents him from accessing public places in Shenzhen.
Several other members of a group on the social network Wechat, which brings together members affected by the banking crisis in Henan, also saw their codes turn red.
According to the regulations of that province, red codes can only be assigned to people who are confirmed cases of Covid-19, direct contacts of positive cases or who arrive from abroad or from areas of the country considered at risk.
The matter generated debate on the social network Weibo – the local equivalent of Twitter, which is blocked in the Asian country -, where some internet users expressed their indignation at the abuse of an epidemic prevention tool.
“The health code has already become a political tool”, lamented an internet user.
Since last April, some rural banks in Henan have limited the amount of money that can be withdrawn.
The authorities have notified the shareholders of some of these entities that the banks are under investigation, suspected of having committed irregularities in their deposits.
According to Phoenix TV, up to 400,000 people may have been affected, and some customers living in other provinces have tried to travel to Henan in hopes of being able to withdraw their savings.