March 22, 2023

Chinese banknotes stamped with QR codes breach great firewall

By Alex Magdaleno From MashableChinese banknotes

Centuries of invaders couldn’t break the Great Wall of China, but a Chinese yuan can. Well, the “Great Firewall,” at least.

A series of one yuan banknotes became a whole lot more valuable after being stamped with a quick response (QR) code — a type of matrix barcode that, when scanned by a smartphone, sends a user to a website stored in the code — that circumvents the infamous firewall.

Beneath the stamped QR codes are the words: “Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall.” Doing so leads to an Amazon cloud link that hosts downloadable software to get around the firewall.

Typically, a website hosting anti-censorship software would itself be censored, but Bill Xia, president of Dynamic Internet Technology — a company that produces circumvention software — told The Epoch Times that there are ways to disguise the URLs of the QR codes. Because the files are stored on Amazon Web Services, if Chinese authorities wanted to block the links provided on the QR codes, they would presumably have to block Amazon in China, an act that could result in serious business problems.

As for who’s responsible for the stamped notes, many believe it to be the Falun Gong — a religious sect whose practice emphasizing morality and virtue has been persecuted by the Communist Party since 1999, most notably in the abduction and detention of known leaders after the practice became increasingly popular in the early 90s, and formally outlawing Falun Gong on July 22, 1999. They’ve been known to supply anti-censorship technology and promote the breaking of the firewall so as to unblock their own website.

The way the story of these QR codes blew up on a national level resonated with the Chinese public. The admission — implied or not — that there is a firewall in China and that there are ways to get around it fascinated Chinese Internet users. According to The Epoch Times, user “Qingwenwoding” wrote: “Only when you break through the firewall can you see China clearly.” Many other commenters on popular websites asked for clearer photos of the stamped notes so that they could scan them from their computer screen.

After scanning the stamped yuan, user “woaixuneng520” commented: “Oh my! I can finally watch YouTube.”

Above all, rejoice in the cat videos and parodies, “woaixuneng520.”

Image: Flickr, Adrian Korte

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