Written by Sylvester Lim

What happened?

The Chinese government’s citizen surveillance program that is powered by high-tech cameras and facial-recognition algorithms may seem strangely reminiscent of the popular dystopian Netflix program, Black Mirror. However, for the citizens and residents of China, it is a living reality. With over 200 million surveillance cameras in China using complex facial-recognition algorithms and social credit systems as well as a police force armed with a myriad of high-tech equipment to bolster this surveillance endeavour, nobody is ever out of reach from the government’s prying eyes.

Today, under the moniker of a free healthcare program, Chinese authorities have been profiling the DNA of Xinjiang citizens, a rather peculiar way of administering “free healthcare”. Chinese Muslims in Xinjiang — a province in China which has the highest number of Muslims — have long been blamed by Chinese authorities for being the source of terrorists who have perpetrated terror attacks in China. Additionally, Xinjiang residents are being coerced by the police, a tactic for scaring the residents into enrolling for this program.


What happens next?

For decades, the Chinese authorities have been tightening its iron grip on Muslims in Xinjiang to coerce loyalty from them through political rehabilitation camps. Additional complications regarding this DNA profiling surveillance arose as prominent American geneticists and biotechnological companies like Thermo Fisher have been cited in scientific patents filed by Chinese authorities in relation to this surveillance program. American senator Marco Rubio condemned Thermo Fisher in a Twitter post for being an enabler of this surveillance program, which many have said is a violation of scientific norms. Nobody should have his/her data be consolidated in a database without having given prior consent. Additionally, the discriminatory nature of profiling only the DNA of Muslims in Xinjiang makes this surveillance program particularly transgressing. American lawmakers are now considering implementing sanctions against Chinese officials and companies that are involved in this surveillance program.

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