Chinese bank depositors planning a protest about their frozen funds saw their health code mysteriously turn red and were stopped from traveling to the site of a rally, confirming fears that China’s vast COVID-tracking system could be weaponized as a powerful tool to stifle dissent.
A red health code designated the would-be protesters as suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, limiting their movement and access to public transportation. Their rallies in the central Henan province this week were thwarted as some were forced into quarantine and others detained by police.
A 38-year-old software engineer was among hundreds who could not access their savings at four rural banks since mid-April. She had planned to travel from her home in Jiangxi province to Zhengzhou, Henan’s capital city, to join a group petition this week to demand her money back. But her health code turned from green to red shortly after she bought a train ticket on Sunday. She said a nucleic test for COVID she took the night before came back negative and her hometown has not reported any infection recently.