The reaction of Chinese citizens to the pressure exerted by the CCP with its “zero-COVID” policy manifests in different ways. Many simply stayed at home in fear. Others, with more courage, sought to end controls and dared to go into the streets to protest. There are also those who chose to confront authorities and destroy the much hated checkpoints and nucleic acid testing stations, as happened a few days ago in Guangzhou. 

Weeks ago, a new tool against restrictions began to circulate among internet users. The project called “Health Code Simulation” anti-extremism and anti-pandemic, was widely used to circumvent health controls.

The health code simulator can generate fake health QR codes and travel code pages for use from cell phones to pass inspection by pandemic workers in normal situations.

In China, checkpoints require citizens to prove they are COVID-free, where they’ve been since their last checkup, and in many cases ask for a 24/72 hour nucleic acid test to gain access to certain locations. Testing stations are ubiquitous with long lines.

Since its appearance, the project immediately attracted the attention of internet users, who joined in. It was soon possible to generate not only travel pages, but also health codes for several provinces, including Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan, Henan, and Hubei and at the same time to include more than 10 sub-projects.

The use of the application seems simple, so it became popular among ordinary users. 

The developer of the project identified as user @ilovexjp pushed his idea from the GitHub site, a well-known overseas software project hosting platform, and presented it as a way to “resist extreme prevention of pandemics that violate science, resist bureaucracy and formalism, and resist totalitarianism and tyranny.” The home page features the Sitong Bridge Warriors’ protest slogan.

However, on November 16, GitHub officially banned the project and removed user @ilovexjp, citing a terms of service violation. Internet users speculate that the ban comes from the CCP who pressured the company Microsoft, owner of the GitHub platform.

Despite the loss of this important means of sharing the project, its creator announced that he will continue to update and provide the version for download from Telegram and Codesera.

During discussions on the network, some GitHub users said that they disagreed with the use of the project. Internet users said that their application has ethical and legal risks, and that it can help in the spread of the virus. But the majority had positive opinions, supporting the initiative and wishing they could apply it.

Lately, continuing to use the app has presented greater challenges. China has increased the use of “electronic sentinels,” which are high-tech and big data systems that integrate functions such as infrared temperature measurement, identity authentication, health code identification verification, vaccination query, and certificate queries. The “health code simulation” serves, above all, when presented in a human inspection.

The other major problem is the legal aspect.

China protest

The use of fake applications is considered as serious a crime as using a fake passport or visa, and offenders can face up to 14 years in prison. There are known cases of several individuals in Hong Kong who have been arrested for this reason.

Developing this type of app in China also carries great risks. 

In January 2021, police in Hangzhou, China, arrested a 41-year-old man for developing a “health code simulation” app, very similar to the one implemented by the Chinese regime. He was also able to simulate the different types of codes in various regions.

In China, the different regions within each province have a distinct health code.

The Chinese regime has to cope with a society that is beginning to react more actively to the controversial health measures. China is the only country in the world that still retains a hard-line of mass lockdowns and large-scale nucleic acid testing. These measures have been strongly criticized by scientists and experts as having no credible scientific basis, and there is speculation that the intentions are purely political and social control. A few days ago, authorities announced a series of measures to ease the situation, but they have not been able to contain social discontent. Several tragedies have shaken public opinion.

The deaths of a 16-year-old girl in Henan province, a 3-year-old boy in the city of Lanzhou and recently a baby in Zhengzhou, associated with the lack of care in quarantine centers or restrictive health checkpoints, fueled the anger of the population and this was reflected both on the networks and in the streets.

The research lead at China Dissent Monitor, Kevin Slaten, reported on data compiled from June to September on different citizen demonstrations. The report states, “There were 37 cases of dissent against COVID-19 restrictions, including large street demonstrations and online tag campaigns with hundreds of thousands of posts, linked to at least 14 provinces or municipalities.”

He added, “Arguably, this period was a peak period for dissenting data and restrictions on individuals, especially if zeroing policies were also considered.”

Slaten told VOA, “However, China Dissent Monitor has documented hundreds of offline protests and some large online dissent.”

He said, “As in most places in the world, Chinese citizens have differing views,” Slaten said. “(Only in China) the one-party authoritarian regime uses censorship, firewalls and internationally concerted information operations to portray the political attitudes of the Chinese people for the rest of the world to consume.”

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