Laboratories in Western countries send samples with medical and genomic information to China for genome mapping, as those countries’ citizens perform COVID tests in Chinese laboratories equipped with Chinese devices connected to their information networks, possibly posing a threat to national security.
The Israeli MyHeritage company and the Chinese genetics giant the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) set up a laboratory to allow tens of thousands of COVID-19 PCR tests to be performed per day. The lab began operations on April 9th, 2020, with the intention to expand tests to 20,000 per day, according to Calcalist. An identical laboratory was set up in just five days by the BGI company in the city of Wuhan where COVID-19 was rolled out, and another laboratory in Shenzhen.
The test being used is the positive polymerase chain reaction, or PCR test. Scientists and experts have increasingly warned that the PCR test does not necessarily mean the virus is present, infectious, or viable, nor does the PCR test detect the whole virus.
The PCR test is highly sensitive, with the result of the test being dependent upon the cycle threshold (“CT”) at which the test is conducted. Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated that a test conducted at a CT of over 35 is useless, with studies confirming Fauci’s conclusion, showing that tests conducted using CT values over 35 have yielded up to eighty percent (80%) false positives. Despite this known sensitivity, the PCR tests were mass-distributed without training, were used by technicians who were not made aware of the underlying flaw in the test, and were operated at a CT value in excess of 35 routinely, therefore delivering results that were, according to Fauci and a broad consensus of experts in the area, useless.
The PCR test is incapable of distinguishing a live particle of a virus from a dead one, and as a result, even a positive test result does not mean that the test subject is infected or contagious with COVID.
Meanwhile, the Quidel Sofia Sars antigen test insert says the test was authorized for “individuals who are suspected of COVID-19 by their health care provider within the first five days of the onset of symptoms,” not for an asymptomatic person. Nevertheless, MyHeritage CEO and Founder Gilad Yefet said: “BGI will send Israel an air train of equipment including dozens of advanced qPCR coronavirus testing machines – the type of equipment used to detect RNA viruses that can measure minimal amounts of the virus. The equipment includes robots for RNA production and large quantities of ancillary equipment.”
In order for the lab to meet the tight schedule to start operating by April 9, MyHeritage recruited 150 employees in days, reported YNet. Yefet said that along with the air train, about 25 experts from China would arrive in Israel to train them to work with the equipment. The Chinese team of experts was exempt from entering isolation, as they arrived armed with medical certificates indicating they tested negative for the virus.
“Masses of tests will help control the plague”
The money for the lab was provided by MyHeritage, while the Chinese BGI donated the equipment and manpower to train the Israeli teams. “The project was done without profit,” stresses Yefet. “Our goal is not to get rich, but to provide a benefit to humanity. This is the golden age of Israel’s high-tech industry.” The same week MyHeritage announced it had donated 66,000 swabs, which comprised its emergency stock, to the Health Ministry for the benefit of performing coronavirus tests.
“We need to learn from the experience of others,” Yefet explained, to emphasize the importance of the tests. “When you look at countries that managed to take control of the virus, like China and South Korea, you see that these are countries that tested masses of people. What’s so dangerous about this disease that many patients have no symptoms. A person can be very contagious but not aware of it.”
In a Geneva briefing on June 8th, 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis Unit Director Maria Van Kerkhove called asymptomatic COVID-19 transmission “very rare.” The “asymptomatic spreader” theory may be undermined by the numerous flaws in the fundamental test upon which all statistics underlying the COVID emergency are based, and the high level of resulting false positives, leading many to incorrectly conclude that asymptomatic people, who in the past would simply have been referred to as “healthy people,” are somehow contagious and are spreading the disease. The WHO later qualified Van Kerkhove’s statement by redefining those previously termed “healthy” as “presymptomatic” rather than “asymptomatic”.
Policy decisions at every level worldwide rest upon this distinction. For example, mandatory masking of healthy people is based upon asymptomatic spread. Social distancing is based upon asymptomatic spread as well. The policy that perfectly healthy, non-contagious people must be vaccinated to interact with and participate in society is based in large degree upon asymptomatic spread.
With regard to flawed statistics, mass PCR testing of the entire population has been based upon asymptomatic spread. Experts worldwide have stated there is no reason to test perfectly healthy, asymptomatic people absent the belief that asymptomatic people can spread COVID. However, the assumption that people with no symptoms can spread the disease is false. As Dr. Fauci stated on September 9, 2020: “Even if there is some asymptomatic transmission, in all the history of respiratory-borne viruses of any type, asymptomatic transmission has never been the driver of outbreaks. The driver of outbreaks is always a symptomatic person, even if there is a rare asymptomatic person that might transmit, an epidemic is not driven by asymptomatic carriers.”
Due to the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic people could spread the disease, mass testing of the population at large has been instituted. Due to the numerous flaws in the PCR test, this mass testing has resulted in dramatically inflated case numbers that experts say do not reflect reality, but falsely overstate the number of COVID cases. As a result, the experts say, the data regarding COVID cases being used to shape public policy is highly inflated.
Despite this, MyHeritage continues to push the claim that massive PCR testing “can stop the disease.” Yefet: “In South Korea, a 61-year-old woman who went to prayer infected over a hundred people, who infected thousands. These people who are called ‘super spreaders’ are people who look normal but are carriers of the disease and are insanely contagious, and we must locate these people as soon as possible.
“In Israel, the people with the most severe symptoms have so far been tested. Those with the mild or no symptoms refuse to be tested and continue to infect. Once there are more tests and more carriers are diagnosed and isolated, we can stop the disease,” he concluded.
MyHeritage claims it will not perform genetic sequencing or DNA testing, and that samples will be destroyed after testing. However, a Hebrew-language Epoch Times article entitled How our genetic information passes to the Chinese Government that has since been removed but can be viewed here, says that for years the genetics laboratories in Israeli hospitals have been transmitting genetic information from Israeli citizens to the Chinese company in charge of China’s genome database, and that its devices connected to HMOs’ information networks may pose a risk to the State of Israel’s national security.
A building that was once a shoe factory is now home to the largest genome mapping company in Shenzhen, China and possibly the world. Amid the neon-lit glass walls, it operates more than 130 identical genetic sequencing machines, each costing about $500,000. Together they map data on DNA sequences at a rate and in greater quantity than all DNA sequencing facilities in the United States together.
Genetic sequencing has become one of the hottest areas of scientific research in our time. Once a DNA molecule containing its hereditary information was discovered in every living and growing creature, scientists tried, through a process of genetic sequencing, to decipher the way the molecule encodes information. Thus, technology was developed that makes it possible to read the genetic information through a simple sample of saliva or blood.
Today the technology is used to perform medical and biological tests, cracking crime cases and also for archeological research. But with the benefits also came the dangers: Engineering embryos and improper use of genetic data that severely infringes on individual privacy and liberty.
BGI or the Beijing Genomics Institute, established in Shenzhen in 1999, started as a small, non-profit research center. It was founded by biologist Yang Huan-ming and geneticist Wang Jian.
In the small center they performed various experiments: Mapping the genome of rice, in an attempt to develop a new strain that is resistant to disease and pests, the genome of chickens, and then also of humans. In 2008, they announced the launch of an ambitious project for those days, for the complete mapping of genomes of more than 1,000 different people around the world. They also mapped the genome of panda bears and pigs, and collected the DNA of Tibetans in an attempt to compare them to the Chinese Han. They forged collaborations with scientists from around the world, and by the way made a living from providing genetic mapping and molecular diagnosis services to hospitals in China.
In 2009 they were promoted to big league. The Chinese Development Bank, owned by the Chinese government, granted them an astronomical loan of about $1.58 billion. With the money, they purchased 128 genetic sequencing machines from the American Illumina company, and turned the small research center into an industrial plant that sequences genes at a dizzying pace. The New York Times estimated in 2011 that BGI was capable of sequencing about 2,000 human genomes per day. In 2013, it already had about 50,000 sequences, more than any other company in the world, and by 2020 it was supposed to build a total pool of more than a million people. The business sense of the two founders also led BGI to develop its own product line and machines. Following this, a lawsuit was filed against them in the United States by Ilumina, claiming that BGI had copied its devices and patents.
The name BGI began to enter Western consciousness only in 2013, following an ambitious, some would say controversial, project led by the company, to sequence the genome of geniuses from all over the world. “Once they find these people, embryo screening will allow parents to choose the smartest fertilized egg and thus, potentially, raise the intelligence of each generation [in China] by 5 to 15 IQ points,” an article on the news site Vice said. The same article also warned that within a few generations – if the project matures – it may be difficult to compete with the Chinese.
NYU University psychologist and lecturer Jeffrey Miller, who contributed his DNA to the study, explained that even if it raised the average Chinese child’s IQ level by five points, “it would make a huge difference in terms of economic productivity, the country’s capacity to compete, and the number of patents issued.” The goal, he said, is to allow future parents to choose personal characteristics of their newborn. “Choosing personal traits may be a little simpler than choosing intelligence,” Miller explained. “How well someone works, how impulsive he is, how politically liberal or conservative – these will be easier things to choose. How religious you are – it’s definitely influenced by genes to some degree.”
Many scientists in the West were appalled at the possibility of determining a newborn’s IQ or proclivity to be a believer or atheist, and sparked lively discussions about it. But in China a different situation has arisen: “People believe it’s a controversial issue, especially in the West. This is not the case in China,” BGI Social Genomics Division Director Steve Shaw told the Wall Street Journal. “There will be countries that will say it’s part of their national health services and everyone’s doing it,” predicted Shaw. “In the end, it’ll be unstoppable, because the states that banned it by law will have to change their decision. How can they not?”
Israel transfers DNA to China
In March 2013, the year BGI’s Genius Project became known, the Chinese company acquired Complete Genomics – a leading American company engaged in genetic sequencing. In those days it was already clear that BGI had close ties with the Chinese government. The company’s founder, Wang Jian, admitted in an interview with him that about ten percent of BGI’s revenue comes from government projects. It is also known today that BGI maintains relations with the Russian government, through the “Russian Direct Investment Fund” belonging to the Putin administration.
The connection to the Chinese regime raised difficult questions in the United States. On the eve of the acquisition, there were concerns that BGI would take over the DNA database of Americans sequenced by Complete Genomics, and from there the information would reach the Chinese regime. Despite this, the Obama administration approved the deal and the DNA data of the Americans passed into the hands of the Chinese company.
But the interesting story in Israel is different. Surprisingly, not only American DNA passed through Complete Genomics to the Chinese BGI that acquired it, but also Israeli DNA. Officials at Sheba Hospital confirmed to Epoch Times‘ Eyal Levinter that in recent years they sent Complete Genomics (after its being acquired by BGI) DNA samples to perform sequencing.
In fact, in October 2013, Prof. Eitan Friedman, an expert in internal medicine and medical genetics and director of the oncology unit at Sheba, said he was examining an innovative project in which the full genome of newborns would be sequenced. In an interview with Globes, it was stated that Complete Genomics, a subsidiary of the Chinese BGI, “expressed a willingness to perform sequencing of newborns and finance it. The company, located in California, has already done about ten genomic mapping projects in Israel, in collaboration with Israeli researchers.”
Although the neonatal sequencing project did not come to fruition, a clarification Levinter performed with two hospitals in Israel revealed other information: Genetics laboratories in Israel and laboratories engaged in research that requires genetic mapping (such as cancer research) worked or still work with Chinese BGI directly, and send genetic information for sequencing. At one of the hospitals they even admitted to Levinter: “Unfortunately we apparently also worked with BGI.”
Further clarification revealed that in fact from the point of view of the lab managers there is nothing wrong with this, as Israel’s Health Ministry approves of their work with BGI. In January 2014, the Health Ministry Medical Director issued a document entitled “Genetic Information Law 5771 2000 – Emphasis for Implementation”. The document emphasized that according to the Genetic Information Law, genetic testing must be performed in Israel. But if there is an institute or laboratory that seeks to perform tests abroad, “that there is no practical possibility of performing in Israel, or that there is material justification for performing outside Israel,” an individual permit may be obtained.
But instead of issuing an individual certificate separately to each laboratory requesting it, the Health Ministry issued a general document entitled “List of approved laboratories for sending genetic tests abroad.” The document is a long table detailing the laboratories abroad to which DNA samples may be sent for the purpose of performing genetic sequencing and other operations. In the document, the Health Ministry approves all laboratories in Israel to work with BGI. Thus genetic information of Israeli citizens began to flow easily and unhindered to the Chinese genome giant. It can only be estimated that in the last decade, BGI has received information from hundreds of Israelis, perhaps thousands.
Surprisingly, unlike Israel which authorizes transmission of genetic information of its citizens via the Internet to China, the Chinese regime prohibits transmission of genetic information of the Chinese abroad. In October 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology fined BGI for transmitting genetic information of Chinese residents abroad via the Internet a few years earlier, as part of a joint project with the British University of Oxford.
Where exactly did the genetic information of the Israelis end up, and what will be done with it? One thing is already clear: BGI is not just a large Chinese company engaged in mapping genomes of pandas, chickens, and geniuses. BGI is today the company that was entrusted with managing the China National Gene Bank (CNGB) in Shenzhen, a database established in 2016 in collaboration between BGI and the Chinese government.
BGI is also part of a huge project of collecting DNA from men in various provinces in China for the purpose of building a DNA database of all Chinese citizens. A database that, according to a statement issued by the Chinese regime, was created “following coordination between high departments” of the authorities, and aims to “improve the accuracy and supervision of population management.”
“China sees DNA as a weapon, for all intents and purposes,” said Virginia-based China researcher and Institute for Population Research (PRI) President Steven Westley Mosher. “It’s a weapon that’s not only used in China, but also in other countries. China collects, analyzes, and stores the DNA of many nations around the world.
“In China alone, there are a number of DNA projects that have already been completed, and others are in progress. For example, a national DNA collection project that focuses exclusively on men. Another project, regional, is aimed at ‘problematic’ minorities such as the Uyghurs and Kazakhs. And there are other projects that focus on the general population. No one can refuse that. Anyone who refuses to give saliva or blood samples from which the DNA is extracted gets a visit from the police.”
The invasion into Israel
Transmitting DNA data via the Internet to China is just an opening shot in a perhaps bigger story, which continues to evolve. On March 27, 2020, it was announced that the Israeli MyHeritage company – which provides a service of building family trees according to DNA – had been trying for a year to develop strategic relationships with BGI. “I’ve been there twice and they’ve come to visit us several times,” wrote on Facebook Columbia University professor and researcher Yaniv Erlich, one of the chief scientists at MyHeritage. “I turned to my colleague Weibin Liu, to see what they know to do with coronavirus. His response was: ‘Coronavirus? Why didn’t you ask before?!’”
Ehrlich wrote that BGI opened a huge coronavirus testing laboratory in the city of Wuhan capable of performing 10,000 tests a day. According to Ehrlich, the company developed a “combat theory” that allows a laboratory to be deployed very quickly, including experts and equipment from China. “They told us they don’t know the market in Israel but they know we’re a strong company, so they’ll be happy to cooperate with us in Israel and open something similar here that will do 10,000 coronavirus tests a day.”
Ehrlich shared this with MyHeritage’s Gilad Yefet, and together they promoted the collaboration with BGI. “Together we turned mountains to formulate it into a plan and bring it to the decision-makers in government ministries, headed by the management of the Health Ministry. Today in the record schedule we managed to reach the signing of a tripartite agreement: the Health Ministry, our BGI partners, and us!” The goal: to build a BGI laboratory in Israel that will operate in collaboration with MyHeritage and initially perform 10,000 COVID tests a day.
But Ehrlich’s celebrations were too early. A number of lawyers and senior lawyers in the field of law and technology in Israel, including Dr. Tehila Altshuler-Schwartz from the Israel Democracy Institute, sent a letter to the Health Ministry Director requesting that the details be published for fear “that the medical information, to be provided for the purpose of testing for the virus, will leak for other purposes and reach commercial hands, without control of the information’s subjects, as well as considerations of information security, consent of the subjects, etc.”
“The story, for us,” Dr. Altshuler-Schwartz said, “was that the first person to say he was bringing in or calling BGI was MyHeritage, a company that collects DNA and had a very serious leak in 2018.” (A security breach led to the leakage of 92 million user accounts from the company’s databases.) We thought that letting such a company, with such a record, together with a Chinese company, handle the issue of testing is problematic. So we put out the letter. Our concern was, of course, that they were going to set up a Chinese laboratory for Israeli DNA in Kiryat Aryeh in Petah Tikva. Our concern was also shared by Clalit HMO Chairman Yochanan Locker, who issued a statement that he would not refer Clalit HMO patients for tests there. Locker’s office said “at the moment he has nothing to add on the subject.”
“On the one hand, the Chinese company comes and says, ‘We’re willing to send technicians for free and do 10,000 tests a day,'” says Dr. Altshuler-Schwartz, “and on the other hand, you ask, why would they agree to come for free? Why would they want to give Israel such a gift? Then you say to yourself, ‘When you give me things for free, usually it’s because I’m the product being sold.”
Two days after the letter was sent, the agreement was frozen, to Ehrlich’s disappointment. On April 8, Ehrlich informed his readers on Facebook: “The Health Ministry finally decided not to go with our offer and simply buy equipment through the Chinese company directly so that it would have full control of the laboratory with public health system personnel operating it.”
On the same day, the Chinese news agency Xinhua, the propaganda mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that BGI had signed a $25.2 million contract with the State of Israel to conduct coronavirus tests. This is not about setting up a laboratory, but about equipment that will be sent from China and reach six laboratories in Israel. The deal was also announced in Israel: “Under the guidance of Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, the Health and Defense Ministries signed an agreement with BGI to provide equipment and materials to perform at least 10,000 additional PCR tests a day. The devices will be installed in six laboratories of the HMOs,” announced the Health Ministry.
The publication brought to the fore another company called AID Genomics, which also tried to establish a BGI laboratory in Israel. According to the company’s announcement: “AID Genomics is a strategic partner of the BGI Group in its clinical activities in 40 different countries, including Israel . . . The company has established a research development laboratory for clinical trials in the Rehovot Science Park and a center for developing bioinformatics and technologies based on artificial intelligence in several countries around the world, including Israel.”
“At this point, wars of economic interests began,” says Dr. Altshuler-Schwartz, “between AID Genomics and MyHeritage, who wanted to bring in the Chinese company BGI.”
Meanwhile, BGI’s test kits arrived at laboratories in Israel. Dr. Roy Zucker, an expert in infectious diseases, published an article in which he tried to warn of problems inherent to the Chinese test. In a phone call he told Epoch Times that published articles showed BGI test efficiency to be lower than other companies’ tests, creating a problem in defining “positive” or “negative”. “The BGI test was approved very urgently by the FDA, with an emergency certificate that is appropriate for this period and not valid later,” he says.
“To date, the tests performed have checked three genes of the virus – when one of them returned positive, the tendency was to issue a positive answer. The genetic sequence that the BGI tests looks at one, instead of three. That is, the BGI tests test for only one genomic sequence, and when it comes out negative then the answer is negative. Therefore, if a BGI test comes out negative, it doesn’t yet justify entering a state of complacency.”
Laboratory Workers’ Union Chairwoman Esther Admon used harsher words: “We know that the Chinese test kits are no good. That’s what we know. Ask any lab manager who performs coronavirus tests. When we test, we test the three proteins of the virus. The Chinese company only tests one protein that is not so stable. It can cause people to walk around who received a negative result, but are actually positive. The entire conduct, as I wrote to Health Ministry Director Moshe Bar Siman Tov, is strange. No one spoke to us, no one sat with us. They go and bring the Chinese. Everything’s populist.”
When asked why she does not instruct laboratories not to use test kits from China, she replied: “Because the Health Ministry has given instructions to use them. If the Health Ministry doesn’t ask me and takes responsibility, that’s its problem.”
Admon tells about an incident at Weizmann Institute in which 19 people received a positive COVID result and 14 of them were hospitalized, but after repeated examinations it was found that they were negative. A Health Ministry source who performs COVID tests at one of the largest laboratories in the country expressed great anger over this story: “How can you sit at home and be silent in the face of such a catastrophe? Instead of making a professional decision, they turn to populist solutions. They turned to an external body that doesn’t comply with basic regulations for a medical laboratory to examine the citizens of Israel.”
Along with BGI’s test kits, its devices also arrived at HMO laboratories. “Lab managers have explicitly written that they are unwilling to accept this equipment,” Admon says, “and that this equipment causes us a lot more work and a lot more exposure to the virus. They wrote letters to the Health Ministry. What did they did with it, I don’t know.”
“These are Real Times PCR devices,” another Health Ministry source told Epoch Times. “If there’s a virus in the sample, the device may indicate its presence.”
Do they connect the device to the lab network?
Why do you need the Chinese device? Don’t you have similar devices?
“There are. But if you want to sample more you can run tests on several devices together. But at the moment we don’t reach these quantities at all.”
This means that you may have connected a Chinese device to your network that is sitting unused.
What does it mean that it is connected to your network – it connects to the database?
“It connects with a communication cable and transmits test results to a computer. Unless you type the results manually one by one into a computer, which is unlikely to be done. All the lab devices I know sit on the hospital or HMO’s computer network. You must be able to distribute the information to departments.”
If we assume for a moment theoretically that this device knows how to collect the information from your network and transmit it, in theory is it possible to transfer the DNA database of Israeli citizens to a foreign entity?
“No. Because you aren’t sequencing DNA through this device. What could happen, is if you have a worm that can transmit the data on your computer to a third party, then it can see the medical records of everyone in the system.”
In September 2015, a cooperation agreement was signed between BGI and the communications equipment giant Huawei. In Israel, Huawei is known to the general public thanks to the smartphones it sells. It is known around the world for the criticism of its Chinese intelligence connections and its attempts to enter into tenders to build 5G networks around the world.
As early as October 2012, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, which had been investigating Huawei for months, ruled that the company posed a threat to U.S. national security. This is because the company is connected to Chinese intelligence and therefore may allow it to plant, in the communication equipment it installs around the world, “back doors” through which information will pass to China.
Former CIA and NSA head General Michael Hayden confirmed to Epoch Times that Huawei was indeed spying for China. To this can be added the words of Michelle van Clive, who was the director of the U.S. National Anti-Intelligence Office in the Bush Jr. administration: “They can provide both coverage and an entrance gate for intelligence activities.”
The new collaboration between BGI and Huawei dealt with one of the most problematic issues from the point of view of information security – Big Data – the collection of large databases. According to the companies’ announcement, the collaboration involved “establishing a big data storage system for genetic information.” Such cooperation was supposed to trigger a warning alarm in the Defense Ministry.
“The risk is real and immediate and such a thing shouldn’t be ignored,” says Yossi Applebaum, once with Israeli Defense Forces Intelligence Corps Unit 8200, and today the CEO and founder of the cyber Sepio Systems company. The chairman of Sepio Systems is Tamir Pardo, the former head of the Mossad (until 2016), while its advisory committee consists of Robert Bigman, who was CIA Director of Information Security for 15 years. “Over the years, crisis countries have taken advantage of a more convenient, theoretical approach – as in this case – to information that should be kept on guard.”
Applebaum, who now lives in the United States, is considered a world-class cyber expert. He found spy chips installed on various devices – inside phones (Ip Phone), inside communication switches, and even inside keyboards and mouses. “Eventually these [BGI] devices will be connected to the existing infrastructure, and even if there is some separation between the networks, it is a practice that has been proven in the past to be non-hermetic,” he says. According to him, installing a hardware implant inside the devices to be used to steal sensitive information “is an easy operation,” but “I have no idea if this is the case.”
In a previous interview with him, he explained: “Let’s say I’m an intelligence organization that wants to attack a company. I’ll reach a supplier who sells them the equipment, and a second before the equipment is sent to the company, or a second after, I’ll put some implant inside that will allow the information to leak. In most cases, the hardware manufacturers leave open hardware connectors on the board, which allow access to the processor or network connections. It’s a paradise for attackers. I can connect to them easily – create some small board that looks exactly the same as the other boards in legitimate hardware, and thus enter in a simple and effective way.
“I have no way to explain why Israel gives the Chinese very simple access to knowledge, technology, and infrastructure . . . I think the intelligence bodies in Israel are absolutely aware of the threat,” Applebaum continues, “the question is whether they are listened to or not. This is already a question I don’t want to get into.”
Even if we ignore for a moment BGI’s cooperation with Huawei, there is a security risk that cannot be ignored. “No matter what privacy protocols have been set by Chinese society and what’s been promised to Israelis – they’re worthless,” says Steven W. Mosher. “All high-tech companies in China, whether government-owned or privately owned, work hand-in-hand with the state.”
Mosher points to China’s state security laws that require BGI to cooperate with Chinese intelligence and pass on information to it if asked to do so. Section 11 of China’s National Security Law of 1993, for example, states that “the State Security Organization may inspect electronic communications devices, applications, and other similar equipment and devices belonging to any organization or individual.” In other words, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Chinese military, and Chinese intelligence agencies can gain direct access to BGI’s equipment and the databases it has collected, without BGI being able to refuse. Similarly, China’s National Intelligence Act of June 2017 states in Article 7 that “any organization or citizen must support, assist, and cooperate with the country’s intelligence work.”
It is no secret that the Israeli General Security Service (GSS – Shabak) prohibits its employees from working with Chinese devices, especially Huawei products. If so, why is it allowing a Chinese company – and another one that cooperates with Huawei – to connect to the computer network and the database of the health funds where the medical files of millions of Israelis are kept?
On April 23, 2020, the Defense Ministry and the Health Ministry finally authorized BGI to establish a testing laboratory in Israel together with MyHeritage. The equipment belongs to the Chinese company, management is Israeli.
This added a new security risk: that the Chinese company would gain – through future cooperation with MyHeritage – access to the Israeli company’s database, which stores the personal details of millions of people, including DNA data.
Regarding the current COVID laboratory, MyHeritage CEO Gilad Yefet stated that in accordance with the agreement with the Defense and Health Ministries, “the laboratory will not be connected to MyHeritage’s infrastructure, its website, services, etc., and its workforce will be separated from MyHeritage employees.” According to him, BGI will not receive any access to samples in the laboratory, and no information will be sent by the laboratory to BGI or China or any third party. Also, the samples will be destroyed by the lab after the lab has tested them.
“Whether MyHeritage and BGI will cooperate in the future beyond the laboratory is an option left to wait-and-see,” said Yefet, who did not respond to Epoch Times’ question as to whether he knew about BGI’s cooperation with Huawei, that faces serious espionage allegations.
“On the one hand, it’s quite possible that this is an innocent move and certainly a worthy move by MyHeritage,” says Applebaum. “But on the other hand, there are growing voices here in the United States, and not just from political parties, that the Chinese moves to distribute equipment after the virus has spread are not innocent.”
A report released in February 2019 by the U.S. Commission on Economic and Security Relations between China and the United States (USCC) says that “China’s attempts to obtain U.S. citizens’ health data, combined with limited protection of U.S. data, raise national security issues.”
“Biotechnology, like many other advanced technologies, is a double-edged sword,” says Steven W. Mosher. “This means that the genomic database and medical files that China holds on American citizens and other citizens in the West may be used for military purposes as well as for civilian purposes. The risk to national security is real.”
There are at least two possible avenues of attack, the U.S. report notes. The first is that foreign countries, such as China, will blackmail individuals by threatening to expose embarrassing health information. Another way is to use the health information gathered about certain diplomats, politicians, or military leaders, for example about allergies that affect them, to carry out a targeted attack against them that will “cause an allergic reaction or fatal injury.”
“Will the Chinese Communist Party currently ruling China have remorse for carrying out such attacks? Obviously not,” says Mosher. “After all, this is a regime that selectively executes innocent religious believers, just because their tissues are compatible with people in need of organ transplants – a regime that perceives human life as nothing more than a disposable consumer product.”
“In conclusion,” writes Epoch Times’ Levinter, “there is no doubt that the State of Israel can and must do a better job of protecting the privacy of our medical information. As a first step, it can ban laboratories in Israel from sending samples to BGI for genome mapping – something that has been done for years. It then has to consider whether connecting Chinese devices to the HMO information network, and sending thousands of Israelis to perform COVID tests in a Chinese laboratory – located in the heart of Israel – is justified in terms of the risk involved, since protecting the medical and genomic information of Israeli citizens is a matter of national security.
The original Epoch Times article says no response was received from the Israeli Health Ministry or AID Genomics CEO Snir Zeno for a week prior to the date the article went to press.
After publishing the article on the Epoch Times website, Levinter again contacted the Health Ministry to receive their response. The Ministry said: “In Israel, there are millions of devices of various types made in China. The health care system already meets the most stringent standards of information security and we see no reason to treat one device or another differently.”
Epoch Times article sources:
- Lone Frank, “China Is Rewriting the Book on Genome Research”, Newsweek, April 2011
- John Whitfield, “Rice genome unveiled”, Nature, April 2002
- Wang J, He X, Jue Ruan, +16, “ChickVD: a sequence variation database for the chicken genome”, Jan 2005
- NIH, “International Consortium Announces the 1000 Genomes Project”, January 2008
- Science Daily, “Giant Panda Genome To Be Sequenced”, March 2008
- Robert Sanders, “Tibetans adapted to high altitude in less than 3,000 years”, Berkeley News, July 2010
- Dawn Field, Neil Davies, “Biocode: The New Age of Genomics”, Chapter: Genomics Goliath, 2015
- Andrew Pollack, “DNA Sequencing Caught in Deluge of Data”, New York Times, Nov 2011
- Dawn Field, Neil Davies, “Biocode: The New Age of Genomics”, Chapter: Genomics Goliath, 2015
- GenomeWeb, “Illumina Sues BGI Again, Alleging New CoolMPS Chemistry Infringes SBS Patents”, Feb 2020
- Aleks Eror, “China Is Engineering Genius Babies”, Vice.com, March 2013
- Gautam Naik, “A Genetic Code for Genius?”, The Wall Street Journal, Feb 2013
- Gwynn Guilford, “A Chinese company is pioneering the technology to let parents pick their smartest embryo”, Quartz, January 2014
- BGI Shenzhen, “BGI-Shenzhen Completes Acquisition of Complete Genomics”, March 2013, PR Newswire
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