(Dec 2): Hong Kong will launch a China-style health code to put the city’s tracking capabilities on a par with the mainland as the two sides prepare to reopen their border.
The Hong Kong Health Code will be launched on Dec 10 and record a user’s real name, address and collect data on places they’ve visited, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit said at a press conference on Thursday (Dec 2). The voluntary app is designed to be recognised in Macau and the neighbouring Guangdong province, Sit added.
The city’s current LeaveHomeSafe app lets users enter public venues by scanning a quick response code that’s pegged to their mobile phone, not their name, and doesn’t share data with the government. In mainland China, a mandatory health code has dictated where citizens can go since the pandemic hit using a traffic light system. It knows a user’s name, identification number, close contacts and shares data with local authorities.
That difference in digital surveillance has been a sticking point in protracted talks about restarting quarantine-free travel from Hong Kong to China. Chief Secretary John Lee said last week that with the addition of the health code, Hong Kong had fulfilled the basic conditions to restart those exchanges without setting a date.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has prioritised restarting quarantine-free travel with the mainland over opening up to the rest of the world. That goal has seen Hong Kong adopt Beijing’s stringent Covid zero policy aimed at eliminating the virus from its borders.
While such measures have kept daily virus cases low, in Hong Kong they’ve frustrated many businesses and residents who want to travel for work and leisure. When the border opens, travel may initially be capped at 1,000 people per day, local news outlet HK01 reported last month, citing unidentified sources.