China’s Ministry of Public Service says it has collected DNA information for more than 40 million people whom the country deems as threats, and much of this information gathering has been discretionary and without oversight, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this week.
The country’s database contains information from millions of people, including migrant workers, activists, petitioners, college students and Muslims, and China says this is the largest DNA collection in the world, according to a recent report.
While it might appear that China has its 1.4 billion citizens’ best interests at heart, the DNA collection is often at the discretion of the police, and is sometimes being done for no apparent reason at all.
“Mass DNA collection by the powerful Chinese police absent effective privacy protections or an independent judicial system is a perfect storm for abuses,” Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW, said. “China is moving its Orwellian system to the genetic level.”
Local police have the ability to request blood samples at nearly any time, even from those people who are not accused of crimes or under investigation.
For example, in 2013, police collected DNA from 5,000 students without giving any reason.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security began building its DNA database – the Forensic Science DNA System – in the early 2000s; the database is also known as the National Public Security Agencies DNA Database Application System. This was part of a larger police initiative known as Golden Shield.