China moves to expand DNA testing in Muslim region

Uighurs rest near a food stall in Kashgar, Xinjiang province, in this Aug. 6, 2008 photo. (AP)
Updated 17 May 2017
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China moves to expand DNA testing in Muslim region

BEIJING: China appears to be laying the groundwork for the mass collection of DNA samples from residents of a restive, largely Muslim region that’s been under a security crackdown, rights observers and independent experts said Tuesday.
Police in western China’s Xinjiang region confirmed to The Associated Press that they are in the process of purchasing at least $8.7 million in equipment to analyze DNA samples.
Observers from Human Rights Watch said they’ve seen evidence of almost $3 million in additional purchases related to DNA testing. They warned such a collection program could be used as a way for authorities to beef up their political control.
The move comes after Chinese authorities last year reportedly required Xinjiang residents to submit DNA samples, fingerprints and voice records to obtain passports or travel abroad.
If used at full capacity, the new equipment could be used to profile up to 10,000 DNA samples a day and several million a year, said Yves Moreau, a computational biologist specializing in genome analysis and DNA privacy at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
Since it started collecting DNA profiles in 1989, China has amassed the unique genetic information on more than 40 million people, constituting the world’s largest DNA database, according to a study last year by forensic researchers at the China Ministry of Public Security.
Unlike many other countries, China lacks legal protections to guard people’s privacy and prevent their genetic information from being misused, said Helen Wallace, founder of the British group GeneWatch.
Xinjiang borders several unstable Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. It has experienced numerous bombings and vehicle and knife attacks blamed on ethnic separatists from the native Uighur minority.
Chinese authorities seeking to counter religious extremism among the Uighurs have taken increasingly aggressive steps to quell the unrest. Those have included mandatory satellite tracking systems for vehicles in some areas, rewards for terror-related tips and prohibitions against women wearing veils and men growing beards.


Australia police make arrest in Israeli student murder case

Updated 1 min 29 sec ago
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Australia police make arrest in Israeli student murder case

SYDNEY: Australia police on Friday arrested a man in relation to the murder of Israeli student Aiia Maasarwe, some two days after her body was found in Melbourne.
The 21-year-old was killed on the way home from a comedy show in Melbourne just after midnight on Wednesday, with her body found in bushes near a tram stop by passers-by several hours later.
A 20-year-old man from the outer suburbs of Melbourne was arrested at 11.20am Friday, police said.
“Homicide Squad detectives have arrested a man as part of the ongoing investigation into the death of Aiia Maasarwe,” Victoria Police said in a statement.
“Police would like to thank the public for their assistance with the investigation.”
Police on Thursday said Maasarwe was killed in a late-night attack while she was speaking on the phone with her sister.
They described the murder as a “horrendous, horrific attack.”
Campaigners on Friday called for an end to the “epidemic of violence against women” ahead of a vigil in memory Maasarwe.
Several memorials are to be held on Friday, including one where mourners dressed in black will hold a silent vigil on the steps of the Victorian state parliament.
Another memorial plans to fill the 86 tram, which Maasarwe was believed to have ridden on her way home, with red roses that were reportedly her favorite flowers.
Some of the organizers were the same ones who organized a vigil for Eurydice Dixon, a 22-year-old local comedian who was killed in a Melbourne park last year as she was going home.
“We’re as angry as we were last time,” organizer Jessamy Gleeson told Melbourne’s Herald Sun on Friday, adding more needed to be done to keep women safe.
“We shouldn’t have these one-off vigils. There needs to be continued engagement and conversation about violence against women.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Twitter on Friday, calling the crime “an incredibly shocking, despicable and tragic attack.”
“My heart goes out to Aiia’s family and friends and everyone whose life she touched.”