Since the peak of China’s CCP virus pandemic in February, a three-color health code has ruled the lives of roughly 1 billion Chinese people, assessing whether they can move around freely or must stay in quarantine.
Enabled by the Chinese regime’s ubiquitous use of big data and overzealous attempts to stop COVID-19 spread, the mini-app—embedded within the super-app WeChat that citizens use for nearly all aspects of daily life, from paying for food to booking doctor’s appointments—rates each individual’s health with a green, yellow, and red code. Authorities scan the barcode on people’s phones to check if an individual is virus-free, has had contact with virus patients, is COVID-19 positive, or exhibits symptoms of the virus.
While authorities haven’t explicitly mandated the usage of the app, the barcode must be scanned when boarding a bus or subway, checking into a hotel, entering a supermarket, and entering or leaving their residential district.
The collection and handling of sensitive personal data by WeChat have unsettled some cybersecurity experts, who worry that such information may apply to areas far beyond health and feed into the state’s surveillance machine.
Information remains limited about how people’s data is stored, but public reports and leaked documents suggest that WeChat is working closely with Chinese police and sharing the data without users’ knowledge.
Police AccessInternal and public records both show that police authorities have access to the health code’s data.
The Epoch Times obtained an internal announcement from Xiong'an New Area, a state-backed megacity project in Hebei Province, that noted that the local police bureau would be “in charge of big data analysis, data mining, and in-depth application” of the health code.
“It cannot be considered normal inside China, since the CCP controls everything in the country,” he told The Epoch Times, adding that, with “the CCP literally in full control, there are no checks and balances to prevent extreme abuse and coercion.”
The Epoch Times did not immediately hear back from Tencent about WeChat’s privacy concerns.
All-EncompassingWhile virus fears appear to have receded in China, the health code app appears poised to stay—and play a greater role in citizens’ lives.
Shenzhen officials have discussed plans, but divulged little detail, about converting the health code into a “citizen code” that identifies each individual on online platforms.
“It’s further intrusion and control into citizen’s private lives. There is not much that can be done in a totalitarian country, but this deeper intrusion would be rejected in free societies,” said Fleming.
Currently, those who wish to travel to China are also required to use the app. Travelers who come from, or pass through 78 countries, including the U.K., New Zealand, South Korea, and Singapore, are required to present a virus-negative test result via the WeChat mini app before boarding a China-bound flight.