Guangdong’s provincial government is testing an add-on WeChat pilot feature to allow some Hongkongers to obtain a health code to cross the border into mainland China. Covid-19 negative test results and personal data may be uploaded to the programme, which was launched on Sunday.

Currently, only individuals from specific categories – such as government officials, cross-border truck drivers, and those with manufacturing businesses in the mainland – can cross the border without undergoing mandatory quarantine and a virus test. The Hong Kong government has been in negotiations with the mainland to ease travel restrictions through a universal health code system.

Photo: WeChat screenshot.

The mini-app “Yue Sheng Shi ” can be installed in WeChat. It includes new options including “Guangdong to Hong Kong (testing)” and “Hong Kong to Guangdong (testing),” under a new page called “Guangdong to Hong Kong border crossing (testing),” HK01 reported.

“Yue Sheng Shi” is a Guangdong government mobile application that allows residents to carry out interactions with the authorities, such as paying for traffic tickets, scheduling government appointments, or renewing passports and visas.

Photo: WeChat screenshot.

Within the new options, users can select one of three declaration categories, such as the “Hong Kong individuals entry daily health declaration” or “cross-border truck drivers entry declaration.”

Under the first option, the user can upload a virus test report and enter their personal information, including their travel document and phone numbers. They can then obtain a “Hong Kong health code” – a QR code that may be converted to a mainland health QR code and presented at the border.

File Photo: GovHK.

Since September, Macau residents have been able to travel to the mainland, without completing quarantine, using a health QR code scheme. Residents can obtain a QR code that allows them to enter the mainland via Zhuhai upon presentation of a negative virus test result which was obtained no more than seven days earlier. Up to mid-October, over 18 million travellers crossed borders under the scheme, Wen Wei Po reported.

Mainland authorities have been considering implementing a similar health code scheme for Hongkongers if the city records fewer than ten locally transmitted Covid-19 cases for 14 consecutive days. Hong Kong must also be able to present a thorough system for tracing the epidemiological origin of each infection, Sing Tao Daily reported on Sunday, citing a source close to mainland officials.

The proposed health code system has been criticised by medical professionals and pro-democracy activists who expressed concern that the system may be used as government surveillance and pose ethical challenges.

In total, Hong Kong has seen 5,374 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 107 deaths.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.