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‘Privacy Violations For All’: Chinese Province Collects Biodata Without Consent

© AP Photo / Denis PoroyFile Photo of Biometric Face-Scanning
File Photo of Biometric Face-Scanning - Sputnik International
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The regional government in China’s westernmost Xinjiang Province is expanding its biodata collection project to include the DNA, fingerprints, iris signatures, and blood types of all people between the ages of 12 and 65, according to a new report.

One way the government of Xinjiang will gather some of this data is through the free Physicals for All program. During the physical, DNA and blood type data will be gathered, according to Human Rights Watch, which published the biodata collection report in December 13.
Critics maintain that the program is basically a way for the police to gather sensitive information from people while masquerading as a public health initiative.

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"Xinjiang authorities should rename their physical exams project ‘privacy violations for all,'" says Sophia Richardson, China director at HRW, since informed consent and substantive choice do not seem to be an aspect of Physicals for All.

"The mandatory databanking of a whole population's biodata, including DNA, is a gross violation of international human rights norms," Richardson said, noting that the practice is "even more disturbing if it's done surreptitiously, under the guise of a free health care program."

The program was authorized under a policy document called "The Population Registration Program," put into effect by the Xinjiang government in February, 2017. Previous data collection only required passport applicants into Xinjiang to submit biometric data, according to the human rights group.

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According to recent data from the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics, the remote, desertous Xinjiang is one of the poorest provinces in China. Uyghurs in China have presented an Islamic extremist terrorism problem, officials in Beijing have said.

In March, the South China Morning Post reported that the "terrorism threat transforms China's Uyghur heartland into security state," where store owners are required to respond to loud sirens three times a day and stand outside their shops wielding wooden clubs to "fight off imaginary knife-wielding assailants."

An Uyghur individual told HRW that a neighborhood committee "demanded that they [people in his neighborhood] must participate in the physicals," adding that "no participating would surely be seen as a sign of [a] ‘thought problem,'" or political disloyalty.

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