Mass harvesting of DNA in China

China is trying to create the world’s largest biometric database of its citizens. Providing people with this data is no longer voluntary. The DNA collection (fingerprints, and iris scans) in Xinjiang County is compulsory. This procedure is carried out as part of a free medical examination, after which the information is sent to the police.

Medical institutions and police are involved in the collection of citizens’ databases with biometric information. This procedure is mandatory for all ages 12 to 65 years. However, if a person is suspected of acting against the state, age is not important.

Earlier HRW reported that the PRC police had received permission to collect DNA. Formally, law enforcement agencies can apply for genetic data if a citizen is suspected of criminal activity. However, as human rights activists found, DNA is collected without explanation of the reasons or fault. In addition, because of the availability of genetic data, the authorities can track not only one person, but also his relatives. The police statement said that they track potentially dangerous groups. It is known that this is primarily Muslims, dissidents and migrants.

More than 10 million Uighurs and other nationalities in the Xinjiang Uygur region profess Islam. According to some reports, this group has been controlled for a long time. Regularly held detentions and periodic checks, which include the provision of information on smartphones. Therefore, the area has probably become the epicenter of the collection of genetic information.

HRW found that data on blood groups and DNA samples of citizens gathered during a free medical examination as part of the «Medical for All» program. The organization was not able to find out if people are aware of the collection and use of data. However, many people told HRW that they went to the survey, considering it mandatory, not voluntary.

The program lasted until October 2017. According to the Xinhua News Agency, 18.8 million citizens underwent a health check «for everyone». The information received from the hospital was sent to the police station for further storage in the database. And all biological information will be associated with the person’s personal identification number.

Police officers and party workers come to everyone’s house to bring all the known information to the database through a mobile application. Those who do not undergo the data collection procedure must pass it to go to school or get a passport. The base is entered and those people who are registered in the municipality, but live outside the city.

The head of HRW said that the forcible DNA collection and other such measures is a gross violation of human rights.