Written by Alistair Smoot
July 22 (Reuters) – Britain should be concerned about a Chinese company collecting genetic data from millions of women through prenatal testing, a British MP told Reuters.
A Reuters review of scientific papers and company data found that BGI Group developed the tests in cooperation with the Chinese military and uses them to collect genetic data around the world to investigate traits in populations.
“When data comes out of the UK, I am always concerned that it will be treated with the respect and privacy that we expect here at home, and the concern this raises is that it may not be,” Tom Tugendhat, UK chairman, told Reuters. Foreign Affairs of the British Parliament.
“The links between Chinese genome companies and the Chinese military are not in line with what we would normally expect in the UK or indeed in many other countries.”
BGI says it has not shared the data for national security reasons and has never been asked to do so.
The company claimed that it fully complies with the European data protection rules of the GDPR and has also been awarded the British Personal Information Management Certificate.
“The BGI NIPT test was only developed by BGI, not jointly with the Chinese military. All NIPT data collected overseas are stored in BGI laboratories in Hong Kong and destroyed after five years,” he said in an email to Reuters, adding that he took over the protection of Data, privacy and ethics very seriously.
Tugendhat is one of nine British lawmakers sanctioned by China for highlighting alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, something Beijing describes as “lies and disinformation”.
He co-chairs the China Research Group, a group of conservative lawmakers seeking to rebalance the strategic relationship with China.
He said any UK company using the guide should be clear about where the data is headed, who owns it, and what others, including other governments, should have access to.
(By Alistair Smoot in London; Additional information by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Edited in Spanish by Juana Casas)