DNA-testing policy bad for families and hi-tech companies

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 July, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 July, 2001, 12:00am

I refer to the article headlined 'DNA testing approved for abode seekers' (South China Morning Post, June 28). As a private biotechnology company offering parentage-testing services, the use of government facilities to conduct DNA testing for right-of-abode applicants gives cause for concern.

The Secretary for Security has revealed that more than 500 applicants are awaiting DNA testing. I commented in these columns on July 13, 2000, on the inadequacy of the test procedure adopted by the Government Laboratory, in particular the requirement that tests be conducted in both Hong Kong and Guangdong, with two separate fees being payable ($2,600 in Hong Kong and $1,030 in China). Notwithstanding the extra paperwork and trouble caused to the families by this arrangement, the possibility for errors in conducting the tests and interpreting the results is magnified greatly.

We expressed our concerns during the Legislative Council Bills Committee meeting on the Immigration (Amendment) 2000 Bill in November of last year. We proposed a practical and secure alternative system - whereby all testing could be conducted in Hong Kong, eliminating the Security Department's reasonable fears over interference with samples and results.

The spiralling cost of the government tests to applicants has gone unchallenged. The cost estimates provided by the Government for the Hong Kong part of the testing have increased dramatically, from $1,500 in May 2000 to $2,600 in the most recent calculations.

In addition, legislators' short-sightedness in voting down an amendment not to restrict the laboratories able to conduct such testing has cost the fledgling private testing industry in Hong Kong more than $1.8 million ($3,600 per test x 500 tests).

Other laboratories may conduct parentage tests for right-of-abode applicants. However, the Secretary for Security has clearly indicated that such tests will not be considered equally with those conducted by the Government.

There are several companies in Hong Kong capable of conducting parentage tests to the level of accuracy and security demanded by the Government. Furthermore, it appears from the Secretary's reported comments that any additional testing laboratories deemed necessary will be confined to the mainland.

The Government's plans to conduct the DNA testing of right-of-abode applicants are misguided and attempt to restrict unfairly the personal rights of the applicants and the ability of small companies to do business. They also represent a wasted opportunity to support and expand the high-technology base of Hong Kong.


Project Manager

Hong Kong DNA Chips Ltd