Ahead of US-China Meeting, Zeldin Urges Action to Combat China’s Capability to Acquire American Biodata | Congressman Lee Zeldin

Ahead of US-China Meeting, Zeldin Urges Action to Combat China’s Capability to Acquire American Biodata

March 16, 2021
Press Release

\WASHINGTON - Today, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, urged U.S. officials to discuss the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempts to acquire Americans’ biodata, especially during the outbreak of coronavirus, during this week’s meeting between the U.S. and China in Alaska. Congressman Zeldin has also urged the Treasury and Commerce Departments to take immediate regulatory action against companies with ties to the CCP that have the capability to acquire Americans’ biodata. 

“From investments in TikTok, to stock trading apps and COVID testing, the Chinese Communist Party has made it clear it’s laying the groundwork to acquire Americans’ personal information, including our most sensitive healthcare data,” said Congressman Zeldin. “For China, information collection and biotechnology is a new domain of warfare, and the US cannot stand idly by as China weaponizes our most sensitive information right under our noses. In addition to taking immediate, regulatory steps to thwart these clandestine efforts, U.S. officials must make it clear during this week’s meeting in Alaska that we will not stand for these schemes.” 

In 2013, Beijing Genomic Institute (BGI) acquired American company Complete Genomics, gaining access to a large amount of American healthcare information. BGI has significant ties with the Chinese government, including loans from a state-owned bank, and is a recipient of local government grants in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Additionally, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), BGI’s leadership features multiple officials who held CCP and government positions before joining BGI.  

Adding to its significant partnerships and operations in the United States, BGI proposed building COVID-19 testing labs in the United States last year, potentially giving the company access to the health records of millions of Americans.

As with other PRC companies, BGI is required to “support, assist, and cooperate with Chinese national intelligence efforts” according to Chinese law, meaning that any data BGI acquires, including in the United States, can be transmitted to the CCP.

To combat the CCP’s attempts to acquire Americans’ biodata, Congressman Zeldin is urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to direct the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to reassess BGI’s acquisition of Complete Genomics and prioritize the safety of sensitive healthcare data in any future transactions it may review.

Additionally, Congressman Zeldin is urging Acting Secretary of Commerce Wynn Coggins to place all of BGI’s subsidiaries on the Department’s Entity List, which identifies entities believed to be involved or those which pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities contrary to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests. Inclusion on the Entity List would require BGI and its subsidiaries to secure licenses for the export, re-export or transfer of certain items.

A signed PDF of the letter to Acting Commerce Secretary Coggins is available here

A signed PDF of the letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is available here.