China used DNA to track its people – and turned to a Massachusetts company and a Yale researcher to help build the nightmarish Big Brother-like surveillance and control system, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The tracking targeted China's Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group China wants to make more subservient to the Communist Party, the Times reported, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and a threat of sanctions from the Trump administration.
According to the Times, scientists affiliated with China's police used equipment made by Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts company, to bolster their DNA capabilities. And for comparison with Uighur DNA, they relied on genetic material from people around the world provided by Kenneth Kidd, a prominent Yale geneticist.
Thermo Fisher said Wednesday it would no longer sell its equipment in Xinjiang, the part of China where the campaign to track Uighurs is mostly taking place. Kidd told the Times he had not been aware of how his material and know-how were being used – and had thought the Chinese scientists were acting within scientific norms that require informed consent by DNA donors. They were not.
News of the disturbing tracking system came as the South China Morning Post reported on China's that aims to give each of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score to pressure them into behaving – and which puts offenders on a blacklist banning them from any number of activities, including accessing financial markets or travelling.
A total of 3.51 million untrustworthy individuals and entities repaid their debts or paid off taxes and fines last year due to pressure from the social credit system, the news outlet reported.
"Many people cannot pay their debt because they are too poor but will be subject to this kind of surveillance and this kind of public shaming," a lawyer said. "It violates the rights of human beings."