The official coronavirus app is used to manage life in China. The app is more important than a passport and more personal than a photograph. It decides who can travel where. The app can make it difficult for people to cancel their trips, withdraw into isolation, or seek treatment in a hospital.
It is not possible for many Chinese to live without it. It is essential to be able to get to work.
The software is downloaded and works like a traffic light. Green indicates that the software is "safe from COVID" and grants the holder access into all buildings, even offices.
It's impossible to predict when this green status will suddenly turn yellow. The app tracks every person's movements. It transmits information about where people have been and with whom to China's Big Brother-esque national healthcare authority.
It is easy to make the app turn yellow by sitting in a coffee shop with a confirmed COVID-19 patient.
If this happens, you will be added to the long list of people who may have to be placed in mandatory isolation at their home or quarantined at a government-run facility. There are no ifs, buts or ands.
It is a great tool to limit personal freedom. Although the government claims it is only used to stop the spread of coronavirus, the government admits that it can be misused.
Customers couldn't withdraw money online after a Henan bank, located in central China, had technical difficulties. Many people went to the bank to seek answers. State media reports that local authorities made the customers' health apps red in an attempt to keep them out of trouble.
Five officials were convicted by local authorities for manipulating more than 1000 citizens' health codes after the story hit the headlines.
Although it may sound like justice in China, China's track record for punishing corrupt officials is not good. They often disappear for a time, then return to work in new jobs.
This story also shows that China's universally accepted health app can be used to control citizens for other purposes.
How long can China's leaders resist this temptation?