HomeWorld NewsProtest against Chinese banks halted by health codes going red, filers say

Protest against Chinese banks halted by health codes going red, filers say

SHANGHAI, June 14 (Reuters) – A planned protest by hundreds of bank depositors in central China seeking access to their frozen funds has been thwarted because authorities have turned their health code apps red, several said filers at Reuters.

Depositors planned to travel to central Henan province from across China this week to protest a nearly two-month blockage on access to at least $178 million in deposits, which has prevented companies from paying workers and individuals unable to access savings. Read more

Rights groups have warned that China could use its vast COVID surveillance infrastructure to stifle dissent. 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.

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“They’re putting digital handcuffs on us,” said Chen, a filer from Sichuan province, who declined to use his full name for fear of government retaliation.

The Henan provincial government, the National Health Commission and the Ministry of Public Security did not respond to requests for comment.

After the recent COVID outbreaks, some regions in China have asked travelers to register their plans online.

A man named Liu, who lives in Hubei province, found his health code turned red on the morning of June 12 after checking in to Henan the day before.

Liu had planned to go to a protest scheduled for Monday in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, where he hoped to get his money back. The protest was reportedly the latest among many such protests in Henan in recent months.

More than 200 depositors were similarly blocked when their health codes turned red, according to members of a WeChat group.

It could not be determined whether the code change was to block protesters or for some other reason, but three affiants told Reuters they knew people who had registered to travel to Henan, who were not related to frozen funds, whose codes were not turning red.

Yu Zhou Xin Min Sheng Village Bank, Shangcai Huimin Country Bank and Zhecheng Huanghuai Community Bank froze deposits on April 18, all three notifying their customers that they were upgrading their internal systems. Read more

Liu, who declined to give his full name for fear of government repercussions, said his child may not be able to go to school unless his code turns green soon.

“I can’t do anything, I can’t go anywhere. You are being treated as if you were a criminal. This violates my human rights,” Liu said.

Wang Qiong, who lives in the central city of Wuhan, found her health code turned red after registering to travel to Henan on June 11.

“The police had my identity information since the last time I went to protest in April,” said Wang, who said he lost access to 2.3 million yuan ($341,550).

Other applicants told Reuters they were able to get to Zhengzhou by train and car, but their codes turned red as soon as they scanned the city’s health codes.

($1 = 6.7340 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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Reporting by Engen Tham Additional reporting by Martin Quin Pollard Editing by Tony Munroe and Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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