Human rights lawyer travel restricted by COVID-19 app misuse

Occurred: November 2021

Changsha-based human rights lawyer Xie Yang had his travel curtailed when his COVID-19 health report app turned red when he was trying to travel to Shanghai to visit the mother of a citizen journalist who had been jailed for reporting on the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. 

The incident raised concerns about the misuse of health data for Chinese state control purposes. People trying to join protests in Zhengzhou, Henan province, in order to gain access to their deposits in struggling banks had also seen their health code apps turn red, classifying them a risk to public health and restricting their movements. 

Stopped at the airport, Yang was thrown into quarantine. Changsha had no reported cases of the virus at the time. ‘The Chinese Communist party has found the best model for controlling people,’ he said shortly afterwards.

Operator: Changsha City Health Commission
Developer: Alibaba/Alipay/DingTalk; Tencent/WeChat
Country: China
Sector: Govt - health
Purpose: Control COVID-19
Issue: Dual/multi-use; Privacy; Surveillance
Transparency: Governance; Complaints/appeals