Surveillance of the human genome, what is the objective of the Chinese Government?

Chinese authorities have been collecting biometric data from tens of millions of Chinese citizens. Initially, DNA collection (called "Y-STR Program”) Had only been carried out in the provinces of Xinjiang, Tibet and other areas usually populated by ethnic minorities (rural areas). However, according to The New York Times (TNYT)DNA collection has spread throughout the country (including in the main urban centers). Apparently, they seek to collect samples from 35 to 70 million of their citizens. Until now, China is the only country that collects DNA samples on a massive scale outside the framework of criminal investigations.

Purpose? The database they are putting together with all the information collected will be the perfect tool for the authorities to track anyone for whatever reason they see fit. Similarly, it is mentioned that it will allow maintaining public order and the stability of the country. But the truth is that this level of information will allow an increase in internal repression and will increase the power of the Chinese state.

According to TNYT, Chinese authorities are collecting genetic material from children by blood samples in schools, which constitutes a violation of their responsibilities in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child that China signed. Individuals whose DNA has been collected have no control over this information, nor are they aware of the possible consequences that such collection could have on them.

Although the Chinese authorities reject the existence of these databases, it was found in an official report on the website of the Sichuan province government on June 16 of this year, which reported the creation of a DNA database. by the Office of Public Security in Chengdu City, in which expert opinion was called to create a "male ancestry investigation system". Similarly, 17 public security offices are reported to have collected nearly 600,000 DNA samples from male residents of Chengdu province. There is also evidence of a conference for the promotion of the national program "Y-STR DNA" that promotes said database is still under construction:

On the other hand, it appears that the government is not doing this harvesting without help. In Hunan province, Huangrui Scientific Instruments Ltd., has sold around 140,000 DNA test kits produced by Thermo Fisher to Liuyang City Public Safety. Similarly, the company Genomics International, a subsidiary of the BGI Group, won a contract to analyze 16,000 blood samples collected in order to build a "research system of male ancestry".

A company representative Thermo Fisher said the company was proud to "be part of the many positive ways DNA identification has been applied, from tracking criminals to stopping human trafficking and unjustly releasing the accused." This company was heavily criticized at the beginning of last year for providing DNA analysis and screening equipment to Chinese authorities in support of its campaign to repress ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. To which Thermo Fisher responded with a promise to cease these activities.

What are the consequences? The collection of this genetic information could reinforce the application of discriminatory law and authoritarian political control, he said. ASPI. Not to mention the eminent violation of privacy and the protection of sensitive data.

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Marilú Lazo
Lawyer from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP). Director of The Crypto Legal Blog, she has experience in corporate advice, consumer protection, as well as in matters of personal data protection and new technologies.

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