China calls for QR code tracking to allow countries to reopen borders

China is calling for a QR code based global travel system in a bid to kickstart international travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The country's president has called for a "global mechanism" that would open up borders.

The code would be used to help establish a traveller's health status, but human rights activists warn that it could be used for "broader political monitoring and exclusion".

President Xi Jinping said: "We need to further harmonise policies and standards and establish 'fast tracks' to facilitate the orderly flow of people.

"We hope more countries will joint this mechanism."

Mr Xi made the comments at the G20 summit, an online meeting of heads of state from the world's 20 largest economies.

He claimed the codes would be used to recognise "health certificates based on nucleic acid test results".

The politician did not go into further detail about how the travel scheme might work, or how it would be modelled on China's QR code apps, which have been used to help contain the virus on the country's mainland.

QR codes are bar codes that can be read by mobile phones. China has employed the codes since February, which sees users issued with a traffic-light style health code, with a green code allowing someone to travel freely, and an orange or red code indicating that they need to quarantine for up to two weeks.

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The codes use a combination of data and information submitted by the users themselves.

Reopening global travel remains a difficult challenge for most countries, with spike in coronavirus making it difficult for authorities to lift travel restrictions.

But Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, expressed caution over the proposal.

He said: "An initial focus on health could easily become a Trojan Horse for broader political monitoring and exclusion."

QR codes have been used differently elsewhere.

In Singapore and Australia, for example, they're used for contract tracing, with residents using them to check into and out of places they visit, including malls, restaurants and their places of work.

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