China uses DNA tech to spy on people. Yale geneticist and a U.S. biotech helped.

“The Chinese authorities turned to a Massachusetts company and a prominent Yale researcher as they built an enormous system of surveillance and control.”

This is a heck of a story about how genetic surveillance, powered by American know-how, is being used to oppress the Muslim minority Uighur population and others in China, from the New York Times.

The Uighur people of China are mostly Muslim, and China does awful things to make them comply with state rule. More than a million people, many Uighur, have been detained in what Xi Jinping’s administration calls “re-education” camps. Now, DNA technology has become a useful weapon.

Thermo Fisher is the Massachussetts-based firm highlighted in this report. They’re on Twitter.

And Yale geneticist Kenneth Kidd is the American whose expertise was so central to the plan.

Excerpt from Sui-Lee Wee’s NYT report:

Collecting genetic material is a key part of China’s campaign, according to human rights groups and Uighur activists. They say a comprehensive DNA database could be used to chase down any Uighurs who resist conforming to the campaign.

Police forces in the United States and elsewhere use genetic material from family members to find suspects and solve crimes. Chinese officials, who are building a broad nationwide database of DNA samples, have cited the crime-fighting benefits of China’s own genetic studies.

To bolster their DNA capabilities, scientists affiliated with China’s police used equipment made by Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts company. For comparison with Uighur DNA, they also relied on genetic material from people around the world that was provided by Kenneth Kidd, a prominent Yale University geneticist.

On Wednesday, Thermo Fisher said it would no longer sell its equipment in Xinjiang, the part of China where the campaign to track Uighurs is mostly taking place. The company said separately in an earlier statement to The New York Times that it was working with American officials to figure out how its technology was being used.

Dr. Kidd said he had been unaware of how his material and know-how were being used. He said he believed Chinese scientists were acting within scientific norms that require informed consent by DNA donors.

China’s campaign poses a direct challenge to the scientific community and the way it makes cutting-edge knowledge publicly available. The campaign relies in part on public DNA databases and commercial technology, much of it made or managed in the United States. In turn, Chinese scientists have contributed Uighur DNA samples to a global database, potentially violating scientific norms of consent.

READ MORE: China Uses DNA to Track Its People, With the Help of American Expertise [image: shutterstock]

Tweets from the reporter with background about how this investigative feature was reported.