An anonymous anti-censorship group is stamping Chinese banknotes with a QR code and the message "Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall." The stamps encode a URL for Freegate, a firewall-busting service. The stamps are widely suspected to be the work of Falun Gong, an outlawed religious sect that has a long history of supplying anti-censorship technology inside of mainland China, both to supply access to its own censored websites and to advertise the virtues of its belief-system to Chinese Internet users who are more interested in beating censorship than religion.
The money-stamping story has been big news in China, even attracting reportage in state-run media, where the comment-sections are full of Chinese Internet users complaining that the photos of the stamped money are too low-rez to be scanned in.
This isn't the first time that anti-corruption messages have been circulated through defaced currency: Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame runs the Stamp Stampede, which stamps messages condemning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates of unlimited, anonymous political campaign spending.
"We found this usage of the QR codes interesting," Xia said. "We did get input from China, user feedback that we should provide QR codes so they can distribute them in China," he said. "It's interesting to see that it's actually happening and see the news get publicized."
The reports in China did not indicate that practitioners of Falun Gong may have been behind the effort to stamp the notes. The report identified the code as an "advertisement," and warned readers "never to try scan it."
But netizens seemed unswayed. Many left their sentiments in the comments sections of popular websites. "I often see Falun Dafa words [printed on money]," said netizen yubos1. Another remarked: "Whoever has seen one yuan bills with words stamped on it will understand what the code is about."
Another user, woaixuneng520, wrote: "I tried to scan it. Oh my! I can finally watch YouTube."
Some were disappointed with the blurry photographs that the newspapers published of the bank notes with the codes on them. "Can't the reporter take a clearer picture? I scanned my screen for so long," one user said.
"It's so useful," wrote Qingwenwoding. "Only when you break through the firewall can you see China clearly."
QR Codes Are Stamped on Money to Circumvent China's Great Firewall [Lu Chen/Epoch Times]