China uses DNA to track Uighurs, aided by U.S. expertise
| Tahir Imin, a Uighur, had his blood drawn and face scanned by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang.
Kate Warren for The New York Times
|China uses DNA to track Uighurs, aided by U.S. expertise
|China is collecting genetic material as part of a vast campaign of oppression against Muslim minority groups. Human rights groups and Uighur activists say the DNA could be used to chase down anyone who resists conforming.
|To help build out the DNA database, China used equipment from a U.S. company, Thermo Fisher, and got material from a prominent Yale geneticist for comparing Uighur DNA with genetic material from people around the world.
|How it unfolded: Under the guise of free medical checkups in the western region of Xinjiang, where much of the population is Uighur, the government collected DNA samples, images of irises and other personal data of tens of millions of people.
|In some cases, people were told the checkups were mandatory.
|Background: In 2016, the government set out to make Uighurs and other minority groups more subservient to the Communist Party, detaining up to a million people in what it calls “re-education” camps.
|The response: Thermo Fisher said it would stop selling equipment in Xinjiang. And the Yale researcher said he had believed that the Chinese authorities were operating within scientific norms that require the informed consent of DNA donors.