A Chinese province is collecting DNA and iris scans from all its residents

  • Authorities in one Chinese province are collecting DNA, iris scans, fingerprints and blood types from residents.
  • The biometric data collection appears to be mandatory.
  • This province also monitors residents with facial-recognition cameras, surveillance apps, and voice-recognition technology.

Authorities in the Chinese province of Xinjiang have begun collecting DNA and biometrics from all its residents, Human Rights Watch reported Wednesday.

All residents between 12 and 65 are having DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types collected.

Called The Population Registration Program, police will be collecting iris scans and fingerprints during home visits or by creating centralized collection points. Medical authorities will collect DNA samples and blood type information during yearly physicals that are then sent to police bureaus "for profiling."

Participation does not appear to be optional. One man told Human Rights Watch that local committee members "had demanded that they [people in his neighborhood] must participate in the physicals.”

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Heartland of China becomes security state amid terror
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Heartland of China becomes security state amid terror
Police keep watch on a road running through the Taklamakan Desert outside Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A woman prays at a grave near the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamakan Desert outside the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman walks through a derelict section of the old town in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man herds sheep outside the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An ethnic Uighur man walks down the path leading to the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamakan Desert outside the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ethnic Uighur man looks on at the cemetery surrounding the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamakan Desert outside the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Men sit at the foot of a dune in the Taklamakan Desert outside the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man approaches a mosque to open it for evening prayer in the old town in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Flag-festooned poles stand over a grave in the cemetery surrounding the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamakan Desert outside the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ethnic Uighurs sit near a statue of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man sleeps on the train from Hotan to Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Shopkeepers line up with wooden clubs to perform their daily anti-terror drill outside the bazaar in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Men negotiate over the price of sheep in the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man rests under a poster showing Chinese President Xi Jinping in the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A child sleeps as a riot shield leans on a stall at the bazaar in Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man delivers a sheep to the mosque at the tomb of Imam Asim in the Taklamakan Desert outside the village of Jiya near Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A police officer talks to men in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Portraits of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong, Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin and German philosopher Karl Marx are displayed outside an antique shop in the old town in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Security personnel keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man has his moustache trimmed by a street barber in the old town in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A police officer checks the identity card of a man as security forces keep watch in a street in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Men install a CCTV camera in a shopping street in the old town of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman looks at fabric in the bazaar in Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man stands in an alley in the old town in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
A man arrives at the Id Kah Mosque for morning prayers in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ethnic Uighur man sits on the train from Hotan to Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ethnic Uighur man talks on the phone in front of the Id Kah Mosque in the old town of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 24, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Men watch as old buildings are torn down in Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ethnic Uighur woman stands in the door of a bakery in the old town of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A woman walks past a stall selling fabric at the bazaar in Hotan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter SEARCH "XINJIANG PETER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
The locked door of a neighbourhood mosque is seen in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, March 23, 2017. Many smaller neighbourhood mosques have been closed by the authorities in favour of larger more centralised places of worship, locals and an analyst said. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
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Guidelines direct officials “to ensure that [information from] every household in every village, every person in every household, every item for every person” is collected.

It is also unclear whether locals getting examinations — under the program 'Physicals for All,' which ended in October — know their medical data is being collected.

“Xinjiang authorities should rename their physical exams project ‘Privacy Violations for All,’ as informed consent and real choice does not seem to be part of these programs,” Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, said. “The mandatory data-banking of a whole population’s biodata, including DNA, is a gross violation of international human rights norms, and it’s even more disturbing if it is done surreptitiously, under the guise of a free health care program.”

Xinjiang has a very different population to the rest of China

The demographics of Xinjiang are very different to the rest of China, and have led to strong government crackdowns.

Across China, 92% of residents are ethnic Hans. But in Xinjiang, 49% of its 20 million residents are ethnically Uyghurs, most of whom are Muslim.

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Uyghur community in China
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Uyghur community in China

An ethnic Uighur girl poses for photo in front of a red curtain at her home in Hetian, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region August 20, 2012. 

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur child pulls a donkey near Mount Tianshan in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region July 28, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

A facial mask made from pitch and egg white, which is believed to minimize pores, is removed from the face of an ethnic Uighur man during a treatment session at a beauty salon in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region August 5, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur resident puts a sheep into the boot of a bus at a bus station in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region July 31, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur migrant worker is reflected in a mirror at her rented apartment in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, September 11, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur woman (C) hugs her son as she stands outside her house with her daughter (R) and neighbours at an old residential area of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region July 22, 2012.

(REUTERS/Rooney Chen)

Ethnic Uighur children fetch water from an underground water pipe at an old residential area of Kashgar, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region July 22, 2012.

(REUTERS/Rooney Chen)

An ethnic Uighur child squats among a row of sheep at a livestock trading market in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region June 24, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

A boy from the Uighur ethnic group sits in front of a wall, with an Islamic cap hung on it, in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region June 10, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An elderly Uighur man is reflected in a mirror placed on a fire hose box as he takes a routine eye test during his cataract surgery recovery period at a hospital in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region June 6, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur woman (R) collecting bricks talks with a man as they work at a demolition site which will make way for a residential complex in Akqi county of Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region June 5, 2012. Investors counting on China to repeat its huge 2008-09 stimulus to backstop global economic growth are failing to recognize Beijing's limited scope to deliver another major spending surge. The 4 trillion yuan ($628 billion) stimulus package launched to counter the post-Lehman global crisis won worldwide applause but left a stellar bill - a 10.7 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) mountain of local government debt, the risk of sour loans as growth slows and a super-heated property market.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur woman is put on a drip as her child lies on the bed next to her at a hospital in Shaya county of Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, June 3, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur man lies on a bed at a store in Shaya county of Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, June 3, 2012. Picture taken June 3, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur vendor counts money as he sits at his stall selling cloth in Shaya county of Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, June 3, 2012. Picture taken June 3, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic minority student plays with a hula hoop as his schoolmates look on during a physical exercise class at a primary school in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region May 30, 2012. Picture taken May 30, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

Ethnic Uighur children pose as they ride on a motorized tricycle in Aksu, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region May 21, 2012. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Ethnic Uighur laborers work at a demolition site in Aksu, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region May 21, 2012. China's premier reiterated calls on Sunday for the country to maintain its campaign to cool down its property market, a series of controls on credit and purchases that have begun to drive down housing prices.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur man takes a nap on a board as his goat, which is tied to the board, stands next to him at a demolition site in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region August 13, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

An ethnic Uighur man shows a painting of China's former leaders (from L to R) Zhu De, Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong and Liu Shaoqi meeting at an airport, at his home in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region August 14, 2012.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

Ethnic Uighur men work at a farming area near Lukqun town, in Xinjiang province October 30, 2013.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

A suspected Uighur from China's troubled far-western region of Xinjiang, rests on a ground inside a temporary shelter after being detained at the immigration regional headquarters near the Thailand-Malaysia border in Hat Yai, Songkla March 14, 2014. About 200 people rescued by police from a human smuggling camp in southern Thailand on Wednesday are suspected Uighur Muslims from China's troubled far-western region of Xinjiang, say Thai police.

(REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

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Living in China's largest province with their own strong ethnic identity and language, Uyghur people face discrimination and a large share of government oversight to suppress any potential separatism.

Reports have emerged this year of men, women and children being detained at "political education" centers in Xinjiang, where they are forced to watch government propaganda videos and renounce their ethnic and religious identities.

Uyghurs are living in a surveillance state

Government surveillance in Xinjiang is ubiquitous.

In the last year Xinjiang recruited more than 90,000 personnel for security positions. Nearly all of them will work at 7,500 "convenience police stations" dotted throughout the region.

Facial-recognition cameras are common and authorities have requested residents install surveillance apps on their phones.

In 2016 Xinjiang police bureaus began collecting residents' voice samples. This was likely an early step toward China's national voice database, that will be able to automatically identify targeted voices in phone conversations.

Also in 2016, several areas of Xinjiang announced that locals would need approval to travel overseas.

All passport holders had to report to local police stations where their passports would be held for "safekeeping." Once passports were handed over, those wanting to travel internationally would need to apply for " approval to leave the country."

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