Collecting DNA samples in Xinjiang to keep nationwide “stability”
China’s authorities have collected genetic information on some 44 million people since 1989 without oversight, transparency, or privacy protection. Of these, only 1.5 million were linked to crime scenes. Since November 2016, passport applicants in Xinjiang must provide their DNA. Local authorities have bought around US billion in gene sequencing equipment as part of China's nationwide "stability maintenance" regime.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Human rights groups and academics have denounced the decision by the authorities in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang to conduct mass collection of DNA samples from people who have not broken any law.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Chinese police already are collecting samples without oversight, transparency, or privacy protection.
"Evidence suggests that the regional government in Xinjiang, an ethnic (Muslim) minority region with a history of government repression, intends to accelerate the collection and indexing of DNA," the group said in a report on its website.
Of all the entries on the DNA database, only 1.5 million were linked to crime scenes, HRW noted, with some 513,000 entries held on a separate database to fight human trafficking.
"Authorities have stated that the DNA databases are used for solving crimes, including terrorism and child trafficking, as well as to identify bodies and vagrants," the group noted.
Since November 2016, police in Xinjiang have required all passport applicants to submit DNA samples.
Xinjiang authorities are reported to have bought around US$ 10 billion in equipment to step up the collection and indexing of DNA. This indicates that they intend “to build large-scale infrastructure to profile a large number of individuals," HRW said, citing DNA experts.
Leaked tenders by regional governments have said biometric information is being gathered as part of China's nationwide "stability maintenance" regime.
Reports from ethnic minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang show that the DNA collection scheme in the region began last September with the inception of a region-wide "health check-up".
Beijing's DNA collection efforts appear to be targeting several defined groups of people across China who are not criminal suspects, the HRW report noted.
Such groups include “focus personnel,” a broad term that can include dissidents, activists, petitioners, and anyone with a prior criminal record, migrant workers and customers of hostels, entertainment venues, internet cafes, and rental homes.
China started collecting DNA in 1989, amassing so far genetic information of some 44 million people.