Research paper withdrawn to procure non-consensual DNA samples from Tibetans and Uighurs

The respected scientific journal has withdrawn studies collecting DNA samples from Tibetans and Uighurs without informed consent.

It comes in the background of China’s increasingly strict crackdown Using tactics such as cultural and religious oppression, mass containment, forced labor, and family separation for ethnic minorities in the northwestern part of Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Human genetics Published withdrawal notes “We couldn’t confirm that all research participants gave proper informed consent,” the author said in an article in early January.

This study aims to reexamine the genetic status of Chinese men based on approximately 38,000 DNA samples of Y chromosome mutations throughout the Chinese ethnic community, from Tibetans, Uighurs, and Kazakhs. I used the genetic data of.

In the same year, it was published in Human Genetics in 2017. I got a report about Chinese police, British lawyer Samuel Pitchford collecting Uighur DNA samples for mass surveillance Written in a post on Human Rights Pulse January 5th.

Epoch Times Photo
On April 16, 2021, supporters of the East Turkestan Great Awakening Movement will meet in front of the British Embassy in Washington. The group is calling for Uighurs and other Turks fleeing the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to be granted refugee status and for an international boycott in the winter of 2022. Olympic Games in Beijing, China. (Drew Angeler / Getty Images)

Like other withdrawn papers on the same topic, this study “could not prove” that the author complies with international ethical standards under the Declaration of Helsinki. “

“The purpose of medical research is to benefit humans, but it can only happen if doctors respect the human rights of the subject,” Pitchford wrote.

the study First attracted attention Yves Moreau, a bioinformatics from KU Leuven in Belgium, found the vast amount of data and participation in co-authors’ studies from Chinese law enforcement agencies to be particularly problematic.

Then, in June 2020, we asked the journal editors to withdraw the “defensive” papers and urged the journal’s publisher, Springer Nature, to investigate.

The study was finally withdrawn in December 2021 and the Chinese and German authors split, with some agreeing and others disagreeing with the withdrawal.

DNA sample as a tool for monitoring

This is not the first time scientific papers have faced a backlash due to the use of non-consensual DNA samples.

In August and September 2021, two medical studies by Chinese researchers were withdrawn, including the collection of DNA variants in the Eurasian community. International forensic journal When Human geneticsEach cited concerns about “ethics and consent procedures.”

Since 2019, Morrow has reported more than 80 Chinese research papers to almost all major scholarly publishers for research, but in most cases his efforts have not listened.

“It’s really embarrassing that no one, especially these journals, thought of this,” he said. South China Morning Post on September 12, 2021.

UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Privacy Attention to DNA databases should be subject to “potential abuse for government surveillance, including identification of relatives and non-fathers, and risk of false accusations.”

“A large amount of DNA collection by strong Chinese police without effective privacy protection and an independent judicial system is the worst situation of abuse.”Sophie Richardson said, China Director of Human Rights Watch. “China is moving the Orwell system to the genetic level.”

Chinese scientific research stumbles on ethical standards

However, while the “misuse” of non-consensual DNA samples in research papers has only recently surfaced, other “ethical revocations” such as lack of transparency in reports from Chinese organ donors have not surfaced. , Pitchford added.

according to A 2019 study published by the British Medical JournalBetween 2000 and 2017, 99% of publications on organ transplantation in China, or 435 publications, could not prove that the organ donors agreed, but 92.5% (412 publications). ) Did not reveal whether the organ was sourced from the executed prisoner.

The findings resulted in the withdrawal of “more than 20 scientific papers,” Pitchford said.

It will be offered as an independent court concluded by Queen’s Counsel Jeffrey Nice (pdf) Chinese doctors, under state command, killed “thousands of innocent people” for their organs.

Nie Jing-Bao, a Chinese bioethicist currently working at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said: Journal Science on August 10, 2021 “In China, it can be very difficult to determine the effectiveness of informed consent.”

“Explicit and especially implicit pressure [to give consent] It often comes in many forms, “he said.

But Ed Gerrstner, Springer Nature’s Journal Policy Director, argued last year that there was no benefit to boycotting research from across the country.

“All studies, regardless of their country of origin, are worth assessing their own benefits and adherence to ethical standards,” he said.

Nina Nguyen


Nina Nguyen is a Sydney-based Vietnamese reporter with a focus on Australian news. Contact her at [email protected]