China authorities have collected DNA and other fingerprint data from the whole inhabitants of the volatile western region of Xinjiang, Human Right Watch said on Wed, denouncing the campaign as a total violation of worldwide standards. Hundreds of people have been murdered in Xinjiang in the past few years in violence between Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people, and cultural majority Han China, which Beijing blamed on Islamist militants.

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“The anxiety has motivated a sweeping security attack there, such as mass rallies by armed police; challenging actions that privileges advocates say limit religious and cultural expression and extensive monitoring.”

Officials from each of the six areas, which together hold about one-third of Xinjiang’s 22m people, verified the credibility of the notices but all dropped to comment. A speaker for Xinjiang’s Aksu prefectural govt said she had been directed not to talk about such problems over the phone.  The collection is fuelling issues among Uighur people that the DNA data will be used to match the organs of alleged scammers who may face execution with potential individuals, said by Darren Byler, who is a specialist at the University of Washington and specializes in Xinjiang.

Other locations such as Shandong and China have experimented with limited DNA collection to find missing children or capture tax scammers, but Xinjiang is the first area to substantially launch such guidelines.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang inquired about the review by Human Rights Watch, charged the team of making “untrue” claims. He informed a regular news briefing in Beijing the common situation in the region was good. All China provinces require people to submit fingerprints and a headshot to renew or obtain a recognition card but have never required a DNA blood test.

The campaign’s stated goal is to enhance the distribution of health services and the HRW review said testimonies include where people got treatment for “previously undiscovered diseases, and in some cases saving their lives”.