China collecting DNA, biometrics from millions in Xinjiang: report

Authorities in China's far-west are collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, eye scans and blood types of millions of pe...

Posted: Dec 13, 2017 10:40 AM
Updated: Dec 13, 2017 10:40 AM

Authorities in China's far-west are collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, eye scans and blood types of millions of people aged 12 to 65, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.

Xinjiang, the only Chinese territory apart from Tibet where ethnic Han Chinese are not in the majority, has long been subject to tight controls and surveillance not experienced elsewhere in China.

Authorities appear to building vast database of biometric and other information

Such collection may go against international human rights norms

In April, authorities banned the region's 10 million Muslims from wearing long beards or veils in public, as well as banning home schooling and introducing new restrictions on downloading allegedly extremist materials.

Those new rules came on the heels of a series of steps to increase surveillance in the region that include the surrender of passports and mandatory GPS trackers in cars.

"The mandatory databanking of a whole population's biodata, including DNA, is a gross violation of international human rights norms," Sophie Richardson, China director for HRW, said in a statement.

The Ministry of Public Security and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Data collection

According to a document posted on a Xinjiang government website, the main goal of the new scheme "is to fully and accurately verify the real number of Xinjiang's population, to collect the images, fingerprints, iris scans, blood types, and DNA biometrics of those between the age of 12 and 65."

That information is to be linked to residents' hukou, or household registration cards. The controversial registration system limits where people can access education, medical and housing benefits, essentially limiting many to the region where they were born.

"Regulating the management of identification cards is the foundation to creating a basic population database, based on one's ID numbers, for the autonomous region," the government document said.

Officials are instructed to "ensure that the hukou information for everyone in every household, in every village is completely verified in Xinjiang. No one is to be missed."

Xinjiang is home to an estimated 21.8 million people according to 2010 census figures, though the true population could be much higher, owing to the number of migrant workers attracted to the region for work.

According to the HRW report, the regulations went into effect in February and have been being rolled out across Xinjiang throughout the year. While part of the scheme is designed to improve access to healthcare, DNA and blood type data is to be provided to the police "for profiling," the guidelines said.

Discrimination and surveillance

Xinjiang, a sparse predominately rural territory that accounts for almost one-sixth of China's land mass, is home to many minority ethnic groups, though HRW's Richardson said the program will have a particular effect on Uyghurs, the mostly Muslim ethnic group who make up around 40% of the total population.

"China has few meaningful privacy protections and Uyghurs are already subjected to extensive degrees of control and surveillance, including heavy security presence, numerous checkpoints, and routine inspection of smartphones for 'subversive' content," she said.

"In this context, compulsory biodata collection has particularly abusive potential, and hardly seems justifiable as a security measure."

There have been a number of violent attacks in Xinjiang by groups China claims are separatists linked to overseas Islamic terrorist organizations. Michael Clarke, author of "Xinjiang and China's Rise in Central Asia," wrote for CNN last year that Beijing has long used fear of religious terrorism to "justify its hardline repression of dissent in Xinjiang."

Beijing has consistently denied accusations of ethnic or religious discrimination in Xinjiang.

Privacy concerns

Authorities in China have engaged in a major push to collect DNA information for years, with the Ministry of Public Security saying in 2015 its database was already the world's largest, with some 44 million entries, according to Chinese academics.

An HRW report earlier this year said DNA data is collected indiscriminately, in the name of "solving crimes," with few safeguards to protect citizens' privacy.

Judges in other jurisdictions have expressed concerns at this type of broad biometric data collection, with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in 2008 the retention of fingerprints and DNA from people acquitted of crimes breached their right to privacy.

The UN has also warned DNA databases can "raise human rights concerns, including potential misuse of government surveillance (for example, identification of relatives and non-paternity) and the risk of miscarriages of justice."

Nor will the collection of this data necessarily help the authorities' stated goals of reducing crime and religious extremism, according to Richardson.

"Chinese authorities seem to think they can achieve 'social stability' by placing people under a microscope, but these abusive programs are more likely to deepen hostility towards the government," she said.

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 39°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 43°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 36°
Decatur
Clear
37° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 37°
Fort Payne
Partly Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 34°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 494421

Reported Deaths: 9991
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson711451374
Mobile36184735
Madison32457458
Tuscaloosa24213412
Montgomery22636517
Shelby22020214
Baldwin19790284
Lee14980154
Morgan13693251
Calhoun13307287
Etowah13192320
Marshall11269209
Houston10102261
Elmore9408185
Limestone9376134
Cullman8903181
St. Clair8839224
Lauderdale8601212
DeKalb8465175
Talladega7552164
Walker6538258
Jackson6503103
Autauga630391
Blount6106127
Colbert5993119
Coffee5254102
Dale4648107
Russell405233
Franklin399478
Covington3970106
Chilton3883100
Escambia378172
Tallapoosa3596143
Clarke343753
Chambers3421111
Dallas3412141
Pike293372
Lawrence283684
Marion283495
Winston247368
Bibb245460
Geneva240270
Marengo236557
Pickens224555
Barbour212451
Hale210668
Fayette200957
Butler197566
Henry182641
Cherokee177139
Monroe166339
Randolph163840
Washington156635
Crenshaw145254
Clay145054
Macon142343
Cleburne137841
Lamar133133
Lowndes131251
Wilcox122525
Bullock117136
Conecuh106724
Perry105827
Sumter98632
Coosa89224
Greene88232
Choctaw55123
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 776337

Reported Deaths: 11436
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby873161492
Davidson81556869
Knox46018581
Hamilton40396462
Rutherford38385382
Williamson25282203
Sumner21383315
Montgomery17414213
Out of TN1695094
Wilson16423210
Unassigned15587125
Sullivan14346274
Blount14066181
Bradley12918139
Washington12774234
Maury12220163
Sevier12038163
Putnam10603169
Madison10102228
Robertson8962121
Hamblen8023164
Anderson7991157
Greene7294145
Tipton6948103
Coffee6320115
Dickson6228106
Gibson6188141
Cumberland6106121
Carter5974152
McMinn593191
Roane590796
Bedford5797120
Loudon569665
Jefferson5659119
Lawrence556883
Monroe533190
Warren531475
Hawkins525194
Dyer5237101
Franklin473685
Fayette466971
Obion436595
Rhea415173
Lincoln414062
Cocke399093
Cheatham391244
Marshall391156
Campbell380459
Weakley378959
Giles373896
Henderson361973
Carroll348981
Hardeman338564
White338266
Macon336573
Hardin331063
Lauderdale309242
Henry300975
Marion294144
Scott287644
Wayne287130
Overton284857
Claiborne279768
McNairy267853
DeKalb265549
Hickman265141
Haywood264860
Smith256036
Grainger243146
Trousdale239022
Morgan229738
Fentress229344
Johnson216338
Chester201748
Bledsoe200210
Crockett197247
Unicoi180547
Polk176522
Cannon175029
Union172233
Grundy168630
Lake167826
Sequatchie156027
Decatur153937
Humphreys153721
Benton151039
Lewis147025
Meigs126621
Jackson125234
Stewart123624
Clay107130
Perry103327
Houston102932
Moore94416
Van Buren79520
Pickett74623
Hancock49512

Community Events