Chinese authorities switch off health passes to prevent protest

A stark warning for the rest of the world as to how governments can and will use health apps to block civil liberties and human rights if authorities deem it unfavorable

China provided a stark example of the extent to which governments will abuse the power that comes with COVID-19 smartphone applications, as authorities in Henan province turned the health status of citizens red in order to prevent a scheduled bank protest.

Since May this year, three banks in Henan have frozen some 175 million dollars of deposits which has left people locked out of savings.

A protest was planned by a number of these bank depositors in June, only to find that their health codes on their apps upon entry to the province had been turned red by authorities.

This move prevented hundreds of protesters from making their voices heard against the unexplained blockage of their access to their money.

They are putting digital handcuffs on us,” a depositor from Sichuan province told Reuters.

In China, since the introduction of this COVID-19 health app, anyone without a green code on their app is blocked from public transport and spaces.

Those who naively believed that government-enforced health applications would only be used for the sole purpose of stopping the spread of COVID-19 have been given a stark indication as to the wider breaches of civil liberties that authorities can impose.

China leads the way when it comes to digital authoritarianism, exemplified by their social credit score system which has been in effect since 2017, whereby citizens can be blocked from a variety of public services for demonstrating bad behavior online. Essentially, those who criticized the government or held views deemed undesirable by the Chinese Communist Party.

Yet the digital infrastructure that has been created in the West, with COVID-19 as the pretext, means that it is only a matter of time before such drastic acts will be seen in places like Europe and the United States in order to preserve government control over citizens.