Chinese government accused of issuing fraudulent COVID alerts to thwart protests

In yet another stark example of the abuses perpetrated daily by the Chinese government against its citizens, reports are emerging that authorities in the Asian country are initiating and sending false COVID-19 infection alerts to individuals suspected of preparing to engage in protests unrelated to the pandemic, thus preventing their movement, according to the U.K. Independent.

The situation began to unfold back in April, when four financial institutions in the Henan province cut off customer access to millions in deposited funds, prompting many to travel to the region, attempt to withdrawn their money, or even lodge in-person demonstrations.

However, allegations are now surfacing that the Chinese government is taking advantage of its COVID-19 alert apps – regularly used to block infected individuals from using public transportation, shopping centers, restaurants, and more – to prevent them from engaging in protests over their frozen assets.

The Independent noted that at least 12 customers of the aforementioned Henan banks have complained to journalists that their health apps have turned red – triggering draconian restrictions on movement – when they neared the provincial capital of Zhengzhou.

Wang Jin, one of the impacted bank customers, explained, “We have reasonable and legitimate claims, but they used the red code as a reason to restrict us. [Police] said our health codes will turn green when we leave, and until then we need to stay at the police station.”

CNN chronicled the experience of a 39-year-old tech worker from Beijing who traveled to Zhengzhou seeking answers about roughly $890,000 in deposits he has had frozen, and despite the fact that he tested negative for COVID-19 a day prior to traveling, his alert app turned red as he attempted to exit the train station upon arrival.

Another frustrated depositor who had the same experience declared, “The health code should have been used to prevent the spread of the pandemic, but now it has deviated from its original role and become something like a good citizen certificate.”

Backlash against the possible use of COVID alert codes to stifle dissent arose swiftly, with Hu Xijin of the Global Times opining, “If any locality tries to prevent the movement of certain people by controlling their health codes for other purposes, it’s not only a clear violation of COVID prevention laws and regulations, but will also jeopardize the credibility of the health codes and the public’s support for epidemic prevention. It’ll do more harm than good to our social governance.

In the estimation of the aforementioned Beijing tech worker, whose code eventually turned back to green, those in power who abused the system to silence legitimate protests “should receive their punishment according to the law,” but expressed serious doubts that it would happen, lamenting, “[t]he government’s power is too capricious.” Sadly, it appears that the pandemic has provided an effective conduit for consolidating that authoritarianism even further.