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Workers in a Chinese laboratory

A report revealing China’s effort to collect DNA from millions of men to help solve crimes is raising concerns among researchers about privacy and consent. They say people have little control over how their information is used, and probably do not understand the implications that DNA collection has for their families.

Chinese state media first reported the government’s intention to construct a national forensic DNA database in 2017. But a report released on 17 June compiled by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think tank in Canberra, reveals the scale, and key details, of the operation for the first time: for several years, police have been collecting DNA from men and school-aged boys across the country. They aim to collect and store genetic profiles of roughly 10% of the country’s male population — as many as 70 million people, according to the report. 

The report estimates that those DNA profiles can be used to construct genetic links to China’s entire male population, roughly 700 million people.

The Chinese government says the database will help it to track down criminals,... see more