China collecting DNA, biometrics from millions in Xinjiang: report

Chinese military police attend an anti-terrorist oath-taking rally in Xinjiang.

Story highlights

  • Authorities appear to building vast database of biometric and other information
  • Such collection may go against international human rights norms

Hong Kong (CNN)Authorities in China's far-west are collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, eye scans and blood types of millions of people aged 12 to 65, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.

Xinjiang, the only Chinese territory apart from Tibet where ethnic Han Chinese are not in the majority, has long been subject to tight controls and surveillance not experienced elsewhere in China.
    In April, authorities banned the region's 10 million Muslims from wearing long beards or veils in public, as well as banning home schooling and introducing new restrictions on downloading allegedly extremist materials.
    Those new rules came on the heels of a series of steps to increase surveillance in the region that include the surrender of passports and mandatory GPS trackers in cars.
    "The mandatory databanking of a whole population's biodata, including DNA, is a gross violation of international human rights norms," Sophie Richardson, China director for HRW, said in a statement.
    The Ministry of Public Security and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Data collection

    According to a document posted on a Xinjiang government website, the main goal of the new scheme "is to fully and accurately verify the real number of Xinjiang's population, to collect the images, fingerprints, iris scans, blood types, and DNA biometrics of those between the age of 12 and 65."