The New York Times: China Still Buys American DNA Equipment for Xinjiang Despite Blocks

“I mean, some professor who doesn’t speak Chinese sits on Google in the evening and finds that stuff,” Professor Moreau said. “What is the process that they have put in place to avoid things like that from happening? They should have caught this much earlier than me.”

Forensic database challenged over ethics of DNA holdings

In March 2019, Moreau began looking into studies of minority populations in China. He spotted a 2017 review of almost 38,000 Y-chromosome profiles of men in China, held in the YHRD. It was co-authored by Willuweit and Roewer; other authors included researchers from Chinese public-security and police forces. “I realized that the YHRD was a problem,” says Moreau. The review stated that the profiles had been collected with informed consent — but Moreau argues that it’s hard to see how Uyghurs and other persecuted minority groups could have freely given it.

Risks of genomic surveillance and how to stop it

"As the technology gets cheaper, and as the adoption of surveillance gets ever broader, there is an acute risk of pervasive genomic surveillance, not only by authoritarian regimes but also in democracies with weakening rights. But such a loss of autonomy and freedom is not inevitable. Governments should reform surveillance laws and draft comprehensive privacy protections that tightly regulate the collection, use, and retention of DNA and other biometric identifiers."

ESHG warns against misuses of genetic tests and biobanks for discrimination purposes

"While China, the USA and Thailand are very different countries from Kuwait, both in their size and their leadership, the Kuwaiti example gives us reason to hope that international pressure may have an effect. We are concerned that the growing public awareness of abusive DNA collections will have a detrimental effect on the image of genetics in the wider world. The anti-vaccination movement started off small and was supported by only a handful of mavericks. Few people would have imagined that it would grow so quickly, and to such an extent that a substantial proportion of the population in many Western countries refrain from vaccinations, depriving their children of potentially life-saving tools, and also suggesting they might refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19."

The ethical questions that haunt facial-recognition research

"In the study on Uyghur faces published by Wiley, the researchers didn’t gather photos from online, but said they took pictures of more than 300 Uyghur, Korean and Tibetan 18–22-year-old students at Dalian Minzu University in northeast China, where some of the scientists worked. Months after the study was published, the authors added a note to say that the students had consented to this. But the researchers’ assertions don’t assuage ethical concerns, says Yves Moreau, a computational biologist at the Catholic University of Leuven. He sent Wiley a request to retract the work last year, together with the Toronto-based advocacy group Tech Inquiry."

Falscher Verdacht gegen Sinti und Roma

Moreau setzt sich seit Langem für einen transparenten Umgang mit Daten von Minderheiten ein. Er war es auch, der dafür sorgte, dass vor Kurzem erste Veröffentlichungen zu Uiguren durch chinesische Wissenschaftler von internationalen Fachzeitschriften zurückgezogen wurden. In der YHRD finden sich zum Teil sogar Daten von deutschen Ermittlungsbehörden, die niemals in einer Fachzeitschrift publiziert wurden und somit auch keinen externen Kontrollprozess durchliefen. Auch müssen die Behörden ihre Arbeit vor keiner Ethikkommission verantworten.

The controversial company using DNA to sketch the faces of criminals

In July 2017, as part of China’s Physicals for All programme, the government began collecting iris scans, fingerprints and DNA of everyone between the ages of 12 and 65 in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The programme has been criticized by human-rights groups. Dispatches from Xinjiang from the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch in New York City, reported that more than one million Uyghurs have so far been placed in detention camps. “When you give any authority such important information and such strong leverage against individuals, you start to worry very, very much about the shape society’s going to take,” Moreau says. “You put people in a database because you want to control them.”

Study of China’s ethnic minorities retracted as dozens of papers come under scrutiny for ethical violations

Yves Moreau, a professor of engineering at KU Leuven in Belgium, who has assembled a dossier of roughly 80 papers about DNA fingerprinting in China, in order to expose their ethical shortcomings, told us: "There are over 100 scientific articles on forensic population genetics of highly vulnerable minorities (Tibetan and Muslim minorities) involving at least one co-author from the Chinese police (called public security), the judiciary, or related institutions (such as Xinjiang Police College or Railway Police College). When reported to the size of the population (i.e., number of papers studying a given population divided by the number of people of this population), Tibetans are studied 40 times, and Uyghurs 30 times, more intensely than Hans. About half of all forensic population genetics papers (i.e., papers characterizing the genetic diversity with methods suitable for law enforcement) have at least one co-author from Chinese police, the judiciary, or related institutions. It is impossible to carry out academic research on forensic population genetics in China, so that about 1,000 scientific articles need to be ethically reassessed."

Australian experts raise security concerns about Chinese maker of Andrew Forrest Covid-19 tests

“I am not convinced that it is possible to guarantee that a copy of the data generated by BGI’s sequencing services in western countries will not end up in China, although I am not claiming it already has,” he said. “Service level agreements and privacy regulations are of limited relevance if you cannot prove that the data was sent to China.” “If actual privacy (not just on paper) cannot be guaranteed for patients and customers, BGI might pose an unacceptable strategic risk.” Human Rights Watch’s senior China researcher, Maya Wang, said her organisation was concerned about “the large amount of sensitive personal data” BGI was collecting, both in China and globally.
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