Throughout 2022, as corona testing has become normalized (常态), testing status and QR codes have increasingly been used to prevent possible political “outbreaks.” The most recent case involved depositors who were unable to withdraw money from their banks in rural Henan. This case broke over a month ago. It concluded several weeks later, when depositors went to provincial capital, Zhengzhou in order to make official complaints. As the depositors converged on Zhengzhou, their health codes turned red, which prevented them from using public transportation, getting rooms in hotels, or entering buildings with strict compliance.
My sense is that the public media outrage over the Henan “code reds” seems to have been a tipping point in terms of public opinion on mass testing: most agree that testing is being used as a form of population control, specifically a form of preventative policing. More people are circulating posts about these events, while others (including taxi drivers) are asking rhetorical questions about “what are they doing?” Indeed, there is general awareness that something else is at stake. Many have started to compare corona testing to a Mao-era campaign (运动), focusing on how any campaign, whatever its original purpose is ultimately about political conflicts at the top.
In Shenzhen, preparation for the 25th Anniversary of the Return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty and rumors that Xi Jinping will be joining the celebration seem to have triggered similar preventative measures. Several cases were discovered in the Shantou Subdistrict, Futian. The response was quick; Futian immediately went to a three-day lockdown, while the city made 24-testing mandatory. As of today, missing a 24-hour test in a control area results in an automatic yellow. Moreover, people who have walked near (but not entered) lockdown buildings have seen their QR codes turn yellow. In addition, all public events have been postponed during the week leading up to the ceremony, as have events scheduled for the weekend after the Anniversary ceremony.