China wants a global travel system based on QR codes

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a “global mechanism” to use QR codes to open up international travel.

QR codes will be used to help determine the health of the traveler. But human rights activists warn that such codes could be used for “broader political monitoring and exclusion.”

“We need to further harmonize policies and standards and establish fast-track ways to facilitate the orderly flow of people,” the Chinese president said.

Xi commented on the G20 summit, an online meeting of heads of state from the world’s 20 largest economies, which was hosted by Saudi Arabia over the weekend.

He said the codes could be used to recognize “health certificates based on nucleic acid test results,” according to a transcript published by Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Xi did not go into further detail about how the travel scheme might work or how closely it would be modeled on China’s QR code applications, which were used to help control the virus on the mainland.

“We hope that more countries will join this mechanism,” he added.

How were these QR codes designed?

QR codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phones.

According to the scheme used by China since February, users are issued a traffic light-style health code with a green code that allows one to travel freely and an orange or red code to indicate that quarantine is required for up to two weeks. .

The codes are based on a combination of Big Data and information transmitted by the users themselves.

The technology was developed by the financial technology giant Ant Financial and is available through its main application Alipay, but also on WeChat, which belongs to the competitor Alencay Tencent.

Xi also called for the reopening of the global economy, including the re-establishment of “global and industrial supply chains” and “liberalization of trade in key medical supplies.”

The opening of travel lines remains a challenge for most countries, which are seeing an increase in the number of cases.

A kind of “Trojan Horse”

In a tweet, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, expressed caution over President Xi’s proposal.

“An initial focus on health could easily become a Trojan horse for more extensive monitoring and political exclusion,” he said.

The city of Hangzhou has said it intends to develop a permanent version of the QR code-based software, which will be used to give citizens a personal score based on their medical history, health checks and lifestyle habits.

QR codes have been used differently elsewhere.

In Singapore and Australia, for example, they are used to track contracts, and residents use them to get in and out of the places they visit, including malls, restaurants and their jobs.

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