China Pushes 'DNA Database' to Allegedly Aid Missing Children

China Pushes 'DNA Database' to Allegedly Aid Missing Children

Liu Jiacheng, a member of China’s National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), recently submitted a proposal to the body suggesting Beijing help fight human trafficking by establishing a “nationwide DNA database for kindergartens and primary schools as soon as possible,” the Global Times reported Sunday.

Liu submitted his proposal ahead of the CPPCC’s second plenary meeting, which took place on March 7 amid the backdrop of the annual session of China’s national legislature. The Chinese Communist Party’s rubber-stamp legislature holds a weeklong session each year that includes meetings of its top political advisory bodies, such as the CPPCC.

Liu detailed his DNA database scheme to the Chinese government’s propaganda newspaper, the Global Times, on March 6, saying he suggested the plan require “students in kindergartens and primary schools to register their DNA data when they are enrolled.”

“The DNA archives will be submitted to the public security department for collective storage into the database. Children who do not have DNA files will not be admitted to schools. When students transfer to another school, they also need to submit their DNA files,” Liu said.

The Communist Party adviser implied that parents who refuse to comply with the hypothetical DNA database would face increased scrutiny as suspected criminals.

“If some parents reject uploading their children’s information, they would be a key target for police to find out whether the children are abducted,” Liu told the Global Times.

“For those families who are willing to register DNA data but cannot afford the fees, the local government could offer proper subsidies,” he added.

China’s ruling Communist Party established a limited DNA database in 2009 with the goal of combatting human trafficking. The existing program includes only the DNA of suspected victims of abduction and samples voluntarily submitted by their relatives. Some Chinese government advisers, like Liu, believe this limited DNA bank is no longer sufficient to tackle China’s human trafficking problem.

The Global Times reports that trafficking cases as tracked by the Ministry of Public Security has actually decreased in recent years: “In 2021, cases of trafficking in women and children dropped by 88.3 percent, compared with 2013. In particular, the number of cases of children being stolen or abducted is less than 20 every year on average.” But some recent cases in the last few months attracted “intense public attention,” causing the ministry to focus on the problem again.

The newspaper noted that trafficking is especially rampant in “areas with serious imbalances of sex ratios at birth in the past two decades.” China’s “one-child policy” that limited many families to a single child began in 1980 and ended in 2015. Cultural preference for sons led to a skewed male-female population, as many baby girls were killed through abortion or other means, or adopted out of the country.

Deputies to the National People’s Congress related to the Global Times that cultural factors in rural areas, including lax law enforcement, was also to blame. “The patriarchal system in some uncultured regions” leads citizens to rationalize “the existence of trafficked people in the family.” It was also noted that village officials “know of but ignore” human trafficking cases.

CPPCC National Committee member Liu Hongyu told the Global Times on Sunday he has suggested the Communist Party oversee “compulsory DNA testing for household registration, or hukou.”

Another CPPCC National Committee member named Gao Yanming proposed “adding the DNA information of infants and mothers in medical birth certificates and gradually establishing a DNA database for the whole population [of China].”

“The database could help police find a lost child quickly and put an end to the child-trafficking problem,” Gao argued. Officials did not explain how knowing a child’s DNA would help them “find” the child, other than Liu’s suggestion that parents who refused registering their children’s DNA would be suspected of being child traffickers.

Gabrielle Reyes