China wants covid swabs. Hong Kong fears biometric spying
In a stark example of how authoritarian biometrics policies designed to enforce order can instead cause instability, Hong Kongers are rejecting a Chinese Covid-19 mass test program.
China’s government has said that it will offer voluntary, free coronavirus swabs for everyone in Hong Kong. What sounds like a magnanimous gesture by China toward a rebelling population in Hong Kong, is seen locally as a program to collect the city-state’s literal DNA.
Forced collection of DNA from pro-independence Hong Kong protesters is reported to have already taken place. One fear is that Beijing will weaponize DNA swabs to identify as many people as possible who are related to someone perceived as a political malcontent.
To a large and restless segment of Hong Kongers, this is the motivation behind China’s mass test program.
The territory’s daily Covid-19 cases peaked July 30, and have subsided, but have yet to reach the single-digit levels recorded from April to June. If the program is a sincere effort to contain the virus, previous policies could leave a population of 7.5 million exposed.
Biometrics technology, some of it indirectly funded by U.S. investors including Qualcomm Ventures, has augmented time-honored tools of oppression such as informants, heavy policing and goon squads.
In fact, Beijing has used Hong Kong almost as a laboratory for the introduction of biometric surveillance to an affluent bourgeois society. Until recently, China’s cameras and AI software have focused primarily on the mainland’s middle class citizens and political and religious minorities.
Hong Kong rights and freedoms have disappeared in step with the rise of China’s dictator, Xi Jinping. At the same time, Xi has ostracized and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of ethnic Muslims in concentration camps with the help of biometrics systems.