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COVID tests could 'collect DNA': Hong Kong critics

Hong Kong began free coronavirus testing for all residents on Tuesday (September 1), but in the background some activists urged a boycott against the mainland-led initiative.

They've suggested that people's DNA will be collected and abused under the cover of testing.

A Hong Kong pro-democracy union of healthcare workers and several activists, including Joshua Wong, called on Sunday (August 30) for an outright boycott:

"I hope Hong Kong citizens think twice as the current situation is like having a pregnancy test without having birth control. To shut the border is the best way out."

But by 8 a.m. Tuesday nearly 600,000 people had signed up for the free testing, with people lining up at the 141 test centers across the city.

This is the first time direct help has been provided by Chinese health officials as Hong Kong battles the pandemic.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told the press that the testing was necessary to find invisible transmissions within society and urged medical workers to treat the testing, quote, "objectively and professionally."

But the scheme has emerged as a politcally charged issue.

It comes at a time with anxiety running high in the city about what many of its 7.5 million residents see as Beijing's efforts to rein in their freedoms, in particular with a national security law imposed in June.

But authorities in both Hong Kong and China have dismissed the critics, saying they are trying to smear the central government and that no DNA samples would be taken out of the city.

China's offer to test residents comes as the number of new daily cases in the former British colony has fallen substantially, to single- or low double-digits, from triple-digits just a few weeks ago.

Video Transcript

- Hong Kong began free coronavirus testing for all residents on Tuesday, but in the background, some activists urged a boycott against the mainland-led initiative. They've suggested that people's DNA will be collected and abused under the cover of testing. A Hong Kong pro-democracy union of health care workers and several activists, including Joshua Wong, called on Sunday for an outright boycott.

- [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: I hope Hong Kong citizens think twice as the current situation is like having a pregnancy test without having birth control. To shut the border is the best way out.

- But by 8:00 AM Tuesday, nearly 600,000 people had signed up for the free testing, with people lining up at the 141 test centers across the city. This is the first time direct help has been provided by Chinese health officials as Hong Kong battles the pandemic. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told the press that the testing was necessary to find invisible transmissions within society and urged medical workers to treat the testing, quote, "objectively and professionally."

But the scheme has emerged as a politically charged issue. It comes at a time with anxiety running high in the city about what many of its 7.5 million residents see as Beijing's efforts to rein in their freedoms, in particular, with a national security law imposed in June. But authorities in both Hong Kong and China have dismissed the critics, saying they are trying to smear the central government and that no DNA samples would be taken out of the city. China's offer to test residents comes as the number of new daily cases in the former British colony has fallen substantially to single or low double digits from triple digits just a few weeks ago.