China has been working on building the world’s largest genetic database as Chinese police gather blood samples from around 700 million males, including children, all over the country.
According to new research, police have been doing rounds in communities and even schools to draw blood samples as the Chinese government aims to create a national DNA database. It has been reported that the government has been compiling genetic information since 2017.
In June, The New York Times reported that the project will allow the state to track down the male relatives based on their genes. This will also boost the country’s surveillance powers, including artificial intelligence, facial recognition systems, and advanced security cameras.
This will also enhance the government’s efforts to use genetics to restrain its citizens, particularly tracking ethnic minorities and other targeted groups. Meanwhile, police officers said this database will help track criminals and aide in criminal investigations.
Authorities from a rural county in northern China told computer engineer Jiang Haolin that if he did not give out blood samples, he and his family would be deprived of benefits such as going to a hospital and traveling. Thus, Jiang had no choice but to give his blood sample.
Aside from showing up in houses, police officers are going to schools to collect DNA. In a Chinese southern coastal town, schoolboys lined up while police officers pick their tiny fingers with a needle. Also, officers went across tables in a school about 230 miles to the north to take young boys’ blood samples.
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Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company Thermo Fisher sold the tailor-made DNA testing kits to China, which were used by the police to collect samples. Despite criticisms from the U.S. government, Thermo Fisher pushed through with the contract.
However, in 2019, the biotech giant reportedly stopped selling the DNA testing kits to the Xinjiang region, where the authorities have been persecuting the local Muslim population for years.
Authorities have been surveying the Uighur minority, a Turkic group, who lives in the oil-rich region. Surveillance cameras are installed everywhere, and spyware is installed on people’s smartphones.
However, the project raised concerns about privacy and abuse from some officials in China and human rights advocates within and outside the country, particularly as the government forces everyone to submit their genetic codes.
Rights activists warned that the national DNA database could invade the people’s privacy rights since the collection is done without consent since citizens do not have the right to refuse if they are in an authoritarian state. Activists are also worried that officials may punish the family of activists and dissenters.
Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wang told the NYT that this database allows the authorities to locate “who is most intimately related to whom” and may lead to having the entire families by punished because of an individual’s activism. Wang added that there will be “a chilling effect on society as a whole.”
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This article is owned by Tech Times
Written by: CJ Robles