By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BEIJING (Worthy News) – Chinese authorities are using the country’s massive COVID surveillance infrastructure to prevent a protest against the freezing of bank accounts as part of a broader crackdown, depositors say.
Mobile phone health code applications carried by protestors have been turned red, depositors said.
The depositors planned to travel to the central province of Henan this week from across China to rally against an almost two-month block on accessing at least $178 million of deposits.
But without a green code on their smartphone app, citizens lose access to public transport and spaces such as restaurants and malls, as well as the right to travel across the country.
It was not immediately clear when and if another rally would be held against the bank’s controversial actions. Yu Zhou Xin Min Sheng Village Bank, Shanghai Huimin Country Bank, and Zhecheng Huanghuai Community Bank froze the deposits on April 18, claiming they were upgrading internal systems.
However, the lengthy freezing of accounts has left companies unable to pay workers and individuals unable to access savings, critics say.
Rights groups had warned China could use its vast COVID monitoring capabilities to crack down on dissent. “They are putting digital handcuffs on us,” said a depositor from Sichuan province surnamed Chen, who declined to use his full name for fear of government retribution.
After recent COVID outbreaks, some regions in China asked travelers to register their plans online. Those planning to travel to the Henan protest reportedly found their health code turned red.
The Henan provincial government, the National Health Commission, and the Ministry of Public Security declined to comment.
Communist-run China’s usage of a health app for checking dissent is closely watched in Europe, where the European Union’s executive seeks to rollout digital identity documents for citizens. Opponents of the plan fear that health apps introduced during the COVID pandemic could be used for data collection comparable to China’s system.
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