Report: Beijing Rolls out Health Code System That Dictates Quarantines

Here’s one way to use the Alipay app.

The New York Times reports that China recently launched a new health code system that dictates whether one “should be quarantined or allowed into subways, malls and other public spaces.”

Dubbed the Alipay Health Code, the system provides users with a color code indicating their health status. A green QR code allows its holder to move freely in the Middle Kingdom, yellow means that he or she could be asked to stay home for seven days, while red automatically dictates a two-week quarantine.

In Hangzhou, where the system was initially launched, propaganda-style banners tell people: “Green code, travel freely. Red or yellow, report immediately.”

The health code was co-developed by Alibaba sister company Ant Financial. Its creators said that it uses big data to predict one’s state of health, drawing info from known coronavirus cases and government data on travel bookings.

Users have to sign up on Alipay to receive their QR code and purportedly, it’s become a requirement if you want to move around most Chinese cities.

The code has reportedly created a lot of tension in Hangzhou, with subway guards running down passengers, others going through unchecked, and complaints flooding social media.

29-year-old Leon Lei also noted the lack of information about the rules:

“The broad rules aren’t public,” Mr. Lei said. “How it assigns red or yellow codes isn’t public. And there’s no clear way to make your code turn green.”

And there’s also this:

The Times’s analysis found that as soon as a user grants the software access to personal data, a piece of the program labeled “reportInfoAndLocationToPolice” sends the person’s location, city name and an identifying code number to a server. The software does not make clear to users its connection to the police. But according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency and an official police social media account, law enforcement authorities were a crucial partner in the system’s development.

The Times’ also found that every time a holder’s code is scanned, “his or her current location appears to be sent to the system’s servers.” This, The Times notes, “could allow the authorities to track people’s movements over time.”

All that said, some seem to be happy with the current level Big Brothery in the Mainland. “Alipay already has all our data,” 26-year-old Doo Wang said. “So what are we afraid of? Seriously.”

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