West sees China’s DNA database through skewed lens

By Liu Lulu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/9 22:58:39

China's genetic tracking has been thrust into the limelight recently following allegations by some Western media outlets that Chinese police violate people's privacy and ensnare innocent and guilty alike in building the world's largest DNA database.

"China has few meaningful privacy protections," the BBC quoted Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, as saying, deliberately connecting DNA collection with China's human rights condition.

Some scholars in the US even claimed that a combination of DNA profiles and real-time surveillance instruments could help China's ruling party form an all-encompassing "digital totalitarian state."

Biological samples are an effective tool to track criminals and deter potential unlawful acts. A number of serious criminal cases have been cracked using biometric information. For instance, Gao Chengyong, a serial killer dubbed China's "Jack the Ripper" from Baiyin, Gansu Province, was nabbed after being traced through a DNA sample collected from his uncle. DNA profiles were undoubtedly the No.1 contributor to the solution of a case that remained unresolved for more than 28 years.

China is not the only country to pursue an expansion of the DNA database. Tony Blair, for instance, was considering registering all citizens' DNA records during his term as British prime minister. Kuwait was planning to build a DNA databank where the genetic make-up of not only its citizens but also temporary visitors to the country could be stored. The US is ahead of China in the percentage of people whose genetic information is recorded, 4 percent versus 2.9 percent, according to BBC report. Should the UK, Kuwait or the US be called a "digital totalitarian state?"

Admittedly, privacy and ethics are important issues that should be considered in the collection of citizens' biometric profiles. But it has to be pointed out that China has already put a great deal of effort into protecting personal privacy and is endeavoring to perfect relevant laws and regulations to prevent any breach of residents' rights and meanwhile ensure smooth DNA collection.

Moreover, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., an American company supplying technological support for Chinese police in DNA collection, stressed that it "can adequately protect personal privacy while appropriately balancing the public safety and national security needs of government," according to media reports. It's unfair and groundless for some Westerners with ulterior motives to say that China's expansion of the DNA databank is a means of consolidating the rule of the government.

It's high time that those prejudiced against China abandon their stereotyped mentality. Instead of pointing fingers at China, they should allocate more attention to privacy issues in their own countries instead.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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