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Police in China’s Guangxi order local residents to report for DNA sampling

A small sample of DNA is added to a product gel to see if the amplification process worked Aug. 24, 2016, at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. The product gel is run through an electrical current for 15 minutes to separate the DNA by size. (Senior Airman Ashlin Federick/U.S. Air Force)
September 28, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese region of Guangxi have called on local residents to present themselves for DNA collection over a three-month period lasting until the end of this year, RFA has learned.

Police stations in Guangxi’s tourist destination of Guilin have written to local residents calling on them to undergo blood tests and DNA sampling between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31, according to a copy of the notice seen by RFA.

The request was being made to “complete minimum data requirements for policing” and to “improve population management and control,” the notice said.

An officer who answered the phone at Guilin’s Beimen police station on Thursday said at least one male from each family is expected to leave a DNA sample with police.

A notice issued by the Guiqing police station in the same city titled “Regarding the collection of DNA and blood samples from male family members,” claimed that the data would “enable us to better serve the welfare of the people.”

It said it had been ordered to begin DNA collection from Sept. 20 “according to orders from higher up.”

Similar DNA collection programs have already been implemented in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, while authorities in Zhejiang, Ningbo and Anhui have announced similar plans.

Calls to the Guiqing police station rang unanswered during office hours on Thursday.

An officer who answered the phone at Beimen station said the requirements could vary from district to district.

“I can confirm that we definitely have to collect [DNA],” he said. “When the time comes, we will be collecting it from one male [in each family].”

Privacy concerns

DNA’s common use as a reliable identification for law enforcement agencies worldwide has sparked concerns among critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party over privacy.

Wang Dewang, who is based in Lu’an city in the eastern province of Anhui, said the mass DNA collection drives were a forcible violation of people’s right to privacy.

“They are now taking the whole stability maintenance system out of Xinjiang and into the rest of China, Wang said. “This collection of DNA seriously violates human rights.”

“This is part of the stability maintenance system, which means that they’ll be able to find out who you are in future through your family background even if you change your name entirely, just by taking blood from you and testing your DNA,” he said.

“This already goes far beyond the imaginations of ordinary people, and also of the rest of the world,” Wang said.

A primary school teacher surnamed Meng from the eastern province of Shandong said she is firmly opposed to the authorities’ holding more data on Chinese citizens.

“I don’t agree with this: it’s a matter of personal privacy,” Meng said. “The problem is that the police station often doesn’t handle cases or do things according to the law.”

Current DNA databases owned by Chinese police have an estimated 100 million samples of DNA from the population.

Peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and rights activists have had their blood taken for testing, learning only afterwards that their DNA is now held on a police system.

The Chinese government has never explained publicly why it is starting DNA databases for its citizens with a compulsory or semi-mandatory collection program.