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  • Writer's pictureXiaodong Fang

Will life in China return to normal as Wuhan lockdown ends? No.

China has ended its lockdown of Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported, on April 8, 2020. The government reopened Wuhan's borders after 76 days since nearly zero new local infections in recent weeks. However, the lift of Wuhan lockdown does not mean people can enjoy freedom in their daily lives. The Chinese authorities are still imposing tight controls on people within the region and throughout the country.

Photo courtesy of Victor Garcia/Unsplash

Surveillances are all over the place

Although the physical lockdown reported to be loosened, people in Wuhan and other places of China were still tracked using a mandatory smartphone app powered by a mix of data-tracking and government surveillance. To travel or enter many life-essential places like supermarkets and public transportations, people in China must sign up through Ant's popular wallet app, Alipay, and get assigned a color QR code to determine their health statuses. The green tag means you are healthy and can roam around the city unrestricted, yellow means a seven-day quarantine, and red means a 14-day quarantine.

While the code is visible to folks using the app, it also shares that data with the police. That means, in the name of the virus, the authorities are using high-tech surveillance and monitoring prowess to identify people and track everyone's behavior 24/7.

Since there’s not much detail on how these codes are assigned, such QR code could be used as a way to restrict people's freedom and facilitate the corruptive actions of the authorities.

Also, a facial recognition system that identifies masked people has been developed, apparently with 90 percent accuracy, and apps that decide whether a person poses a contagion risk and should be allowed into malls, subways and other public spaces have extended the government's already extensive system of surveillance and tracking.

Speeches on Coronavirus remain censored and punitive

The outbreak of coronavirus has deepened human rights abuses in China, including the suppression of free speech. Aside from the 60 million people who have been in forced quarantine in the central province of Hubei for nearly two months, people who speak out the truth and/or criticize the government regarding the coronavirus are "disappeared" by the authorities.

No doubt that the crackdown will continue even as the lockdown lifts. According to the Toronto-based cyber-research group Citizen Lab, the Chinese government uses messenger app and video streaming app to identified keyword combinations that included criticism of President Xi Jinping and policies related to the virus, and Internet platforms are obliged to provide information to the Chinese government to facilitate the crackdown on dissent and social movements.

With the Chinese government prioritizing its regime stability over individual rights, freedom is still a distant dream for Chinese people, even in the post-COVID-19 era.


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