China’s Suspected COVID-19 Patients List Leaked Online, Sparking Outrage

January 24, 2021 Updated: January 25, 2021

Personal information about COVID-19 patients in China was recently leaked online, sparking a heated debate about privacy.

Two government documents began circulating on the Chinese internet, dated Jan. 17 and Jan. 18 from the local disease prevention and control command center of Qinggang county, Suihua city, in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang Province.

They listed the personal information of 10 people who were tested for COVID-19, including their full names, ID numbers, home addresses, and phone numbers; and the personal information of seven people who were close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Epoch Times Photo
Personal Information of suspected COVID-19 patients in Qianggang county, Suihua city, Heilongjiang Province, circulated online. (Provided to The Epoch Times)

The 10 people were in one testing cohort. According to the document, people in that cohort tested positive in nucleic acid testing, though it was unclear how many or who tested positive. The command center’s experts recommended that the ten people be placed under quarantine for 14 days and get re-tested. Their health codes should also be upgraded to red, the highest level of COVID-19 risk in China. The health codes are generated via a mobile app and are usually checked by security officers at checkpoints.

For the seven close contacts, the experts also recommended 14-day quarantine and red health codes.

The Chinese-language Epoch Times interviewed two people whose information was leaked.

Wang Hua (alias) confirmed that her personal information was disclosed.

She said she initially did not tell her close friends and relatives about her positive test, because they may be worried about her condition.

“All of my relatives and friends are now panic-stricken,” she said, adding that many of her contacts began reaching out to her.

She was also worried that her work colleagues may have seen her name on the leaked list, and might be fearful of her returning to work.

A man surnamed Tian was frustrated that this information was leaked before their diagnosis was confirmed. In China, reports of false positives and false negatives have surfaced.

“Is it right to publicize our information before we get fully confirmed?…Who or which [governmental] department should be responsible for the leak?”

Locals from virus hotspots also said they faced discrimination.

A young rural worker from Wangkui county, Heilongjiang Province recently traveled to another city, Daqing, for work.

Wangkui experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases around the same time.

At a COVID-19 testing site, healthcare personnel asked where he had traveled from. The young man replied that he had come from Wangkui. People nearby immediately dispersed.

Though he presented a negative COVID-19 test that he recently took, healthcare workers still said he had to be quarantined for 14 days.

He must bear all the expenses—about 2,000 yuan (about $308) for the entire period—himself.

He said it was difficult for him to come up with the money because he had been staying at home for several months due to the pandemic, and did not take up work.

Though he explained his situation to personnel, they did not listen and threatened to keep him isolated for more days if he refused to pay, he told the Chinese-language Epoch Times in an interview.

Another case of leaked personal information occurred in Shenyang city, Liaoning Province.

On Dec. 23, 2020, personal information belonging to an elderly COVID patient surnamed Yin was leaked online. Soon, she received hundreds of phone calls, according to a report by state-run media The Paper. People cursed her and accused her of being the patient zero of the local outbreak. Both her and her family were extremely distressed due to the public attention.