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China: Thermo Fisher criticised for selling equipment used for genetic surveillance of minority group; company will no longer sell in Xinjiang

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21 February 2019

China uses DNA to track its people, with the help of American expertise

Author: Sui-Lee Wee, The New York Times

China wants to make the country’s Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, more subservient to the Communist Party... Collecting genetic material is a key part of China’s campaign, according to human rights groups and Uighur activists. They say a comprehensive DNA database could be used to chase down any Uighurs who resist conforming to the campaign... China used Thermo Fisher’s equipment to map the genes of its people, according to five Ministry of Public Security patent filings. The company has also sold equipment directly to the authorities in Xinjiang, where the campaign to control the Uighurs has been most intense. At least some of the equipment was intended for use by the police... Thermo Fisher was criticized by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and others who asked the Commerce Department to prohibit American companies from selling technology to China that could be used for purposes of surveillance and tracking.

... Thermo Fisher said it would stop selling its equipment in Xinjiang, a decision it said was “consistent with Thermo Fisher’s values, ethics code and policies.”... “As the world leader in serving science, we recognize the importance of considering how our products and services are used — or may be used — by our customers,” it said... [According to] Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch... "It’s an important step, and one hopes that they apply the language in their own statement to commercial activity across China, and that other companies are assessing their sales and operations, especially in Xinjiang."

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21 February 2019

US Company to stop sales of genetic tech in Xinjiang

Author: Associated Press, The New York Times

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. says it will no longer sell or service genetic sequencers in China's mostly Muslim region of Xinjiang following criticism that they were used for surveillance that enabled human rights abuses... The company in Waltham, Massachusetts, cited its "values, ethics code and policies"... Thermo Fisher faced criticism from human rights groups and American lawmakers for supplying the equipment used to identify individuals in Xinjiang. The region is under intense security measures as part of what the government says is an effort to stop extremism and separatist movements... As many as 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are detained in political education camps in Xinjiang, according to U.S. officials and UN experts. The government says those camps are vocational training centers designed to rid the region of extremism.

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