Chinese Authorities Use COVID Tracking App to Thwart Protests

A protest organized by hundreds of Chinese citizens who wanted to access their frozen bank funds has been thwarted thanks to the Chinese government’s COVID surveillance app. The health status of potential protesters was turned red, meaning they are unable to travel, Reuters reported.

The protesters planned to travel to the central province of Henan this week from across China to protest against an almost two-month block on accessing at least $178 million of deposits. The freeze has left companies unable to pay workers and individuals unable to access savings.

Without a green indicator on the Chinese government’s COVID smartphone app, individuals lose access to public transport and spaces such as restaurants and malls, as well as the right to travel across the country.

“They are putting digital handcuffs on us,” a Chinese citizen identified as “Chen” told Reuters. The man opted not to give his full name in order to avoid government retaliation.

The Chinese government has asked prospective travelers to register their plans online in recent weeks, citing COVID-19 outbreaks. One man, identified as “Liu,” told Reuters that his COVID app turned red the morning after he registered plans to travel to Henan.

Liu planned on attending a protest in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou with the aim of getting his money back. The thwarted demonstration would have been one of hundreds that have taken place across the province in recent weeks.

“I can’t do anything, I can’t go anywhere. You’re treated as though you’re a criminal. It infringes on my human rights,” the man told Reuters.

Yu Zhou Xin Min Sheng Village Bank, Shangcai Huimin Country Bank and Zhecheng Huanghuai Community Bank froze deposits on April 18, with all three telling customers they were upgrading internal systems. The move has left millions of Chinese citizens without access to their funds.

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