The number of Chinese cellphone users dropped by 21 million in the past three months, Beijing authorities announced on March 19. Deaths due to the CCP virus may have contributed to the high number of account closings.
Cellphones are an indispensable part of life in China.
“The digitization level is very high in China. People can’t survive without a cellphone,” Tang Jingyuan, a U.S.-based China affairs commentator, told The Epoch Times on March 21. “Dealing with the government for pensions and social security, buying train tickets, shopping ... no matter what people want to do, they are required to use cellphones.
“The Chinese regime requires all Chinese to use their cellphones to generate a health code. Only with a green health code are Chinese allowed to move in China now. It’s impossible for a person to cancel his cellphone.”
Furthermore, Chinese people's bank accounts and social security accounts are bundled with their cellphone plans; apps on Chinese phones check SIM cards against the state’s database to make sure the number belongs to the user.
Beijing claimed that the health codes are intended to prevent the spread of the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
21 Million Cellphone UsersChina's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced on March 19 the number of phone users in each province in February. Compared with the previous announcement, which was released on Dec. 18, 2019, for November 2019 data, both cellphone and landline users dropped dramatically. In the same period the year before, the number of users increased.
The number of cellphone users decreased from 1.600957 billion to 1.579927 billion, a drop of 21.03 million. The number of landline users decreased from 190.83 million to 189.99 million, a drop of 840,000.
According to the operation data of all three Chinese cellphone carriers, cellphone accounts increased in December 2019 but dropped steeply in 2020.
China allows each adult to apply for at most five cellphone numbers. Since Feb. 10, the majority of Chinese students have taken online classes with a cellphone number due to their schools being ordered to stay closed. These students’ accounts are under their parents’ names, which means some parents needed to open a new cellphone account in February.
Analyzing the NumbersThe big question is whether the dramatic drop in cellphone accounts reflects the account closings of those who have died due to the CCP virus.
“It’s possible that some migrant workers had two cellphone numbers before. One is from their hometown, and the other is from the city they work in. In February, they might close the number in the city they work in because they couldn’t go there,” Tang said. Typically, migrant workers would have gone to their home city for the Chinese New Year in January, and then travel restrictions would have prevented them from returning to the city where they held a job.
However, because there is a basic monthly fee to hold a cellphone account in China, the majority of migrant workers—the lowest income group—are likely to only have one cellphone account.
If both the number of migrant workers and the level of employment are accurate, more than 90 percent of migrant workers have gone back to work.
The economic dislocation caused by shutdowns in China may have also led some people who have an extra cellphone to cancel it. With business poor or stopped, they may not want to carry the extra expense.
“At present, we don’t know the details of the data. If only 10 percent of the cellphone accounts were closed because the users died because of the CCP virus, the death toll would be 2 million,” Tang said.
He claimed that the drop in cell phone accounts was partly due to businesses shutting down in February to comply with quarantine policies. These businesses closed their spare phone accounts when their operations were halted, he said.
In addition, because telecom companies also closed down their physical stores during country-wide lockdowns, people were not able to open new accounts, Han said.
The reported death toll in China doesn't line up with what can otherwise be determined about the situation there.
Lacking data, the real death toll in China is a mystery. The cancellation of 21 million cellphones provides a data point that suggests the real number may be far higher than the official number.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party's coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.