China has called on countries across the world to adopt a global Covid-19 tracking system using QR codes that would speed up international travel during the pandemic.
During a virtual G20 leaders’ summit on Saturday, Chinese president Xi Jinping said nations would need to coordinate their policies in order to facilitate the “smooth functioning” of the global economy, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
“We need to further harmonise policies and standards and establish ‘fast tracks’ to facilitate the orderly flow of personnel,” Mr Xi said.
“China has proposed a global mechanism on the mutual recognition of health certificates based on nucleic acid test results in the form of internationally accepted QR codes. We hope more countries will join this mechanism.”
Mr Xi failed to go into further detail about how the scheme might work, or how similar it could be to China’s own QR code system, which issues a traffic-light style code to citizens telling them whether they should quarantine or not.
According to an analysis by The New York Times, China’s QR code system, which stores health and travel data, appears to share information with the police.
The city of Hangzhou, meanwhile, has already said it plans to make a permanent version of the software for its citizens.
Kenneth Roth, head of rights group Human Rights Watch, warned such a global system could act as a “trojan horse” by ultimately increasing surveillance abroad as well.
“Beware of the Chinese government’s proposal for a global QR code system,” Mr Roth tweeted on Sunday. null
“An initial focus on health could easily become a Trojan Horse for broader political monitoring and exclusion, akin to the dangers associated with China’s social-credit system.”