Expats in China hail QR health code

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/7 0:03:40

A working staff checks the health code in a community in Minhang district of Shanghai on Friday. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

China's use of high technologies like big data to track coronavirus-related information is the country's responsibility and efforts to combat the coronavirus, which is no excuse for privacy accusations by overseas media, a tech industry expert told the Global Times on Friday.

Starting March 1, the Shanghai QR health code has allowed expats to make health declarations based on factors such as travel history and relationships to potential carriers of the coronavirus. Expats and people from Hong Kong, Macao and island of Taiwan can obtain the health code after registering in the app of Alipay.

On February 11, Hangzhou government in Zhejiang Province launched a QR health code, accessible via various platforms including Alipay, WeChat, with three categories - green, yellow and red. Residents with a green code can move freely, while yellow and red means the person should remain in quarantine.

Mark Nashan from Germany, who works at an international insurance company in Shanghai, registered his "green code" and understood that the health code is useful at this time. 

"We already have imported case in Shanghai. You may want to know who is dangerous when you are jammed in the subway," Mark told the Global Times on Friday.

Although some people might have privacy concerns, he said it is OK for him. "Just to record my health condition, I don't mind. I always thought the Shanghai city government was very efficient."

The software is not collecting information, actually, it can identify and authenticate personnel information based on big data, so that it could track citizen's coronavirus-related information, Li Yi, chief researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences' internet research center, told the Global Times on Friday.

Also, the system is used during a special period to combat the coronavirus, which will not last long, Li added.

There's no need for privacy concerns, tech industrial expert Liu Dingding noted, adding that the law of personal information protection and data security has been well established in the country.

Liu added that foreign media would always use privacy security as an alibi to attack Chinese internet services whenever there is an innovation by Chinese companies and institutions.

The QR health code is used in more than 200 cities in China, according to Ant Financial of the Alibaba Group.

After users report their coronavirus information, they will receive a personal QR code which is generated by background systems run by local governments after an automatic audit. 

Alipay and WeChat, as third-party companies, provide platforms for displaying the QR code and do not obtain the reported personal information.

To prove that she is coronavirus-free, Eunice Li, a Hong Kong resident currently living in Shanghai, used Alipay to register on March 3. After verifying her identity with Alipay, the software generated a QR code in green, which means she is good to enter Metro, malls and other public spaces.

"The registration process is very easy in Alipay," Li told the Global Times on Friday. "I need this code to ride the subway and use gyms in the near future."

Park Yun-shi from South Korea was told that it's more convenient to register the QR code if he wants to go outside Shanghai. Park registered the software with his basic information including name, address and telephone numbers. "It's very convenient to register," Park told the Global Times on Friday. 

The health code service has covered all residents in Shanghai, with a total of over 47 million visits, since it was launched on February 17, Shanghai authorities said during a March 1 press conference.

The Chinese government has been going to all lengths, including the use of high technologies, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country, and the efforts have paid off, with new infection cases dwindling in recent days.

Chinese Customs has ordered all people entering or leaving China to display a digital or paper health declaration form, as well as coordinate with epidemic prevention work, like taking a body temperature.

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