Meanwhile, China enforces anal swab testing ahead of Lunar New Year travel rush.
A fascinating report from Reuters reveals that BGI Group, the world’s largest genomics company, has worked with China’s military on research that ranges from mass testing for respiratory pathogens to brain science.
The review, of more than 40 publicly available documents and research papers in Chinese and English, shows BGI’s links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) include research with China’s top military supercomputing experts. The extent of those links has not previously been reported.
BGI has sold millions of COVID-19 test kits outside China since the outbreak of the new coronavirus pandemic, including to Europe, Australia and the United States. Shares of BGI Genomics Co, the company’s subsidiary listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange, have doubled in price over the past 12 months, giving it a market value of about $9 billion.
Only a few short weeks ago, a top U.S. security official warned about China gathering foreign genetic data.
…[National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director Bill] Evanina pointed to other threats to the U.S. posed by China, including big data collection.
“Most Americans are unaware that the Chinese government has made collection of health care data a national priority for them. They are collecting the health and genomic data of Americans on a mass scale,” Evanina said, noting that while some of the data has been stolen through cyberattacks, “most of it has been obtained legally through investments or partnerships with U.S. institutions that outsource their genetic sequencing to China.”
“China can exploit this data for a variety of nefarious purposes, and already has a significant record of exploiting DNA for social control and surveillance of their Uyghur populations at home,” he explained.
The information uncovered by the Reuters investigative team shows that the links between the Chinese military and BGI run deeper than previously understood.
BGI has worked on PLA projects seeking to make members of the ethnic Han Chinese majority less susceptible to altitude sickness, Reuters found, genetic research that would benefit soldiers in some border areas.
Elsa Kania, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank, who has provided testimony to U.S. Congressional committees, told Reuters that China’s military has pushed research on brain science, gene editing and the creation of artificial genomes that could have an application in future bioweapons. She added that such weapons are not currently technically feasible.
BGI’s pattern of collaboration with the Chinese military was a “reasonable concern to raise” for U.S. officials, said Kania.
China seems very busy these days. In addition to their collecting genetic data, Chinese authorities have used coronavirus tests that rely on anal swabs.
The tests are typically reserved by health care professionals for high-risk cases, such as those in quarantine sites, according to multiple reports citing state-run channel CCTV.
However, the method was also used in a group of schoolchildren and teachers in Beijing last week, according to multiple reports. Throat and nose swabs were also used in the group.
The anal swabbing seems to be the hot new trend in China, where a surge of new cases are being reported.
According to reports, more than a million residents in Beijing have already undergone anal swabs as part of the screening. An infectious disease specialist, Li Tongzeng, from the You’an Hospital, told state broadcaster CCTV that anal swabs are more accurate and “reduce the return of false positives”.
He was quoted as saying: “In some asymptomatic cases or in individuals with mild symptoms, they tend to recover from the illness very quickly. It’s possible that there will be no trace of the virus in their throat after three to five days.
“What we’ve found is that in some infected patients, the coronavirus survives for a longer period of time in their digestive tract or excrement than in their respiratory tract.
The following video reviews the invasive and humiliating procedure. It is being reported that those being tested are given little warning that this is the testing procedure they will be subjected to.
I hope China focuses its anal swab efforts at truly controlling the spread of the coronavirus, as it was during the 2020 Lunar New Year’s travel rush that the coronavirus was spread across the globe. But I have my doubts.DONATE
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