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China moves to expand DNA testing in Muslim region

AP  |  Beijing 

appears to be laying the groundwork for the broad collection of samples from residents of a restive, largely Muslim region that's been under a security crackdown, rights observers and independent experts said today.

Regional police in western China's region confirmed to The Associated Press that they are in the process of purchasing at least USD 8.7 million in equipment to analyze samples.

Observers from Human Rights Watch said they've seen evidence of almost USD 3 million in additional purchases related to testing and warned that such a collection program could be used as a way for authorities to beef up their political control.

The move comes after Chinese authorities last year reportedly required residents to submit samples, fingerprints and voice records to obtain passports or travel abroad.

Since it started collecting profiles in 1989, has amassed the unique genetic information on more than 40 million people, constituting the world's largest database, according to a study last year by forensic researchers at the Ministry of Public Security.

Unlike many other countries, lacks legal protections to guard people's privacy and prevent their genetic information from being misused, said Helen Wallace, founder of the British group GeneWatch.

borders several unstable Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. It's experienced numerous bombings and vehicle and knife attacks blamed on ethnic separatists from the native Uighur Islamic minority.

In one of the most recent attacks, eight people, including three assailants, were killed in a February knife attack in southern Xinjiang's Pishan County, which borders Pakistan.

Chinese authorities seeking to counter religious extremism among the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) have taken increasingly aggressive steps to quell the unrest. Those have included mandatory satellite tracking systems for vehicles in some areas, rewards for terror-related tips and prohibitions against women wearing veils and men growing beards.

The purchases of testing equipment in were confirmed by an official at the regional Public Security Bureau.

The official, who gave only her surname, Huang, said a supplier already had been found. In Xinjiang's Sheche County, suppliers were being sought for voiceprint collection systems and 3-D portrait systems, according to a security official surnamed Yin, who declined to give further details.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 16 2017. 17:32 IST