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Database of Chinese Men

This post has been updated following a correction to the New York Times article.

China is amassing what amounts to a genetic database of all its male citizens, the New York Times reports.

The Times notes that China already has a collection of some 80 million genetic profiles, but that its earlier programs were limited in scope and aimed at, for instance, ethnic minorities or migrant workers. This program, it says, aims to gather DNA samples from between 35 million and 70 million men and boys, or about 5 percent to 10 percent of China's male population. The Times notes that the effort is focusing on men as Chinese authorities say men are more likely to commit crimes.

The Times further reports that the US firm Thermo Fisher as well as China-based firms have provided the DNA testing kits being used. The Times corrected its article Friday June 19 to note that the testing kits Thermo Fisher markets to Chinese law enforcement cannot distinguish between ethnic groups, but have been adapted so that they are able to gather genetic data from ethnic minorities like Uighurs and Tibetans.

"We are seeing the expansion of those models to the rest of China in an aggressive way that I don't think we've seen before," Emile Dirks, the author of a report on the databse from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, tells the Times.

According to police in China, the database is needed for criminal investigations and that consent is obtained from those giving samples, the Times writes. It adds, though, that the database raises concerns among rights groups that it will lead to privacy invasions and the punishment of the relatives of dissidents. The Times adds that the effort has run into opposition in China, including from officials.