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The public health push, launched in 2016 by Chinese authorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, was pitched as a benevolent benefit: Residents would get free annual medical checkups. They’d be screened for diseases. And they’d get digital health records, in many cases for the first time.

But Physicals for All, as the program is known, is coming under fire from critics who say it has another purpose: government surveillance that violates the basic genetic privacy rights of millions of people in a region with many religious and ethnic minorities.

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