The Chinese government is collecting, analyzing, and storing the DNA of its own citizens – and millions of citizens around the world – including Americans. Part of its “Made in China 2025” initiative, the Chinese Party-State aims to achieve dominance in biotechnology. American companies – whether they know it or not – are enabling China’s rise as a genomics superpower.
Just as it has done to acquire secrets in other sectors, Chinese state-owned or state-funded entities are attempting to buy or invest in American biotech companies. Other methods the Chinese state has used include traditional espionage, employee recruitment, and state-directed cyberattacks to gain access to American technology.
As an example, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Commission, Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) received state support, including a ten-year, $1.5 billion loan from China Development Bank in 2010, to purchase 128 HiSeq 2000 sequencers. BGI is currently a world leader in sequencing.
Further, BGI bought the U.S. sequencing company Complete Genomics – a purchase that gave the Chinese company access to a DNA database of a large number of Americans. Any privacy protocols would prove worthless: all Chinese high-tech companies, whether they be state- or privately owned, must work for the state.
Much of the equipment bought from American companies has ended up in Xinjiang Province of China. The Chinese government has forced millions of the Uyghur Muslim minority population in the region to hand over DNA samples for analysis. This is on top of the Chinese state sentencing over one million Muslims to “re-education camps.”
In response to such human rights abuses, President of the Population Research Institute, Steven Mosher, stated, “The Trump administration should consider putting formal restrictions on the sales of U.S. biotechnology companies, technology, and even equipment to China.”
He continued, “We have to do a better job of protecting the genetic privacy of Americans. In fact, we may very well want to prohibit the testing of American DNA in China, as well as the transfer of American genomic information to that country.”
You can read the full PDF version of this press release here.
The Population Research Institute (PRI) is a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization dedicated to promoting respect for human rights in the context of population issues. To learn more about PRI’s work, visit www.pop.org.