China easily gets around US biometrics bans in Uyghur region — report
It is illegal and unethical for U.S. firms to sell DNA sequencers to police in China’s Xinjiang territory, yet according to reports, it continues unabated.
The equipment is being used in part to collect biometric data from Xinjiang Muslims, known as Uyghurs, who are considered by China’s authoritarian government to be a cultural and political threat to the nation’s regime.
Reporting by The New York Times indicates that despite national prohibitions, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment made by a pair of U.S. companies are getting to Xinjiang police.
Police can legally get around the ban, put in place by the previous White House administration, by purchasing systems from Chinese companies that have legally purchased them. The Times says contracts it has viewed online show that Xinjiang public security firms sold the products to police from May 2019 through this past weekend.
Thermo Fisher executives in 2019 said they performed their own investigation into how Xinjiang police are using biometric products and concluded further sales would be inappropriate.
In response to Times’ questions last week, the company sent a statement saying that internal processes exist to prevent authorized distributors from buying their human-DNA products and reselling them to the government in Xinjiang.
The paper, however, claims it has seen digital documents showing firms, which are not listed as authorized resellers, that are ignoring the prohibitions.
More documents reportedly confirm that Chinese companies have resold Promega’s sequencer line as recently as May.
Compared to the many Chinese trade disputes that were used in the last few years to score political points in the United States, the lives and liberty of Chinese citizens are at risk in this disagreement.
At least a million Uyghurs are being held against their will in numerous internment camps in the remote and sprawling area. According to numerous reports, Uyghurs in and outside the camps face mandatory biometrics collection.
According to Beijing, most internees are being re-indoctrinated and retrained for more desirable jobs. But that is contradicted by multiple reports from a variety of sources, including people who have gotten out of the camps.
Beijing also defends biometric surveillance in Xinjiang, saying that it has made 13,000 arrests of suspected terrorists with the devices.
The reality, according to the reports, is that Beijing is demanding that Uyghurs renounce their heritage, and proclaim loyalty only to the Chinese Communist Party. That is an interesting proposition as the area — the nation’s largest geographical entity — is officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.