On July 11, Lo Chung-Mau, Hong Kong’s new health secretary, announced
plans to update the “Leave Home Safe” risk-exposure app. The update will require people to register by name and use a dual-color coded system that is used on the mainland
to restrict the movements of residents infected with COVID-19 and their close contacts.
“People infected with the virus would be coded red on the app, and people undergoing quarantine would be coded yellow and have to wear tracking wristbands,” according to a Reuters
The update is being considered amid an increase in COVID-19 infections in the financial hub. On July 14, Hong Kong recorded 3,674 cases and five fatalities, leading to an overall tally of 1,283,260 infections and 9,427 deaths, reports the South China Morning Post
Hong Kongers are understandably worried that the app will lead to increased state control over the movements of the city’s approximate seven million residents, reports Radio Free Asia
. Such concerns are not without basis. Mainland China’s health code system has been widely used to control people’s movements during the pandemic. Recently, it was used to “prevent residents from attending a planned protest at a bank in the province of Henan,” according to Associated Press
reports that China-based rights lawyer Xie Yang said his health code turned red after he made plans to visit the mother of jailed citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, against the wishes of the police in the city of Changsha.
A Hong Kong resident surnamed Mak told RFA
that the app will allow the authorities to monitor and control citizens. Mak said, “… people with a red code are denied the right to use any facilities or services, including withdrawing money from the bank. Is it an exaggeration to think that one day, you could also get a red code if you are a dissident?”
This feared scenario is not farfetched amid China’s unrelenting crackdown on pro-democracy activists, stoking fear of further clampdown — and that Hong Kong’s return to democracy remains a distant dream.