A U.S. subsidiary of Chinese genomics company BGI Group received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to data on the program released by the U.S. Treasury Department this week.
Why it matters: BGI's close ties to the Chinese government, which is constructing a massive genetics database of its population, have raised concerns among U.S. officials.
Driving the news: PPP recipients are under scrutiny this week amid criticism that the program did not efficiently direct loans to the small business owners most in need of assistance during the pandemic.
Details: BGI Americas Corporation received a loan amount between $350,000 and $1 million.
- The PPP program permitted U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies to apply for loans under some conditions.
What they're saying: "BGI Americas’ U.S. business has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. BGI Americas is using the loan to help cover salaries and prevent layoffs of U.S. employees," a BGI Americas spokesperson told Axios.
Background: BGI Group is one of the largest gene sequencing companies in the world.
- Amid rapidly rising coronavirus cases earlier this year, California rejected proposals from CGI, a U.S. subsidiary of BGI, to build coronavirus testing labs in the state.
- U.S. officials are worried that state-connected companies such as BGI could use widespread coronavirus testing to compile massive DNA databases for research and genetics-based surveillance, Axios reported in June.
- BGI has also said it is building a gene bank in Xinjiang, a northwestern region in China where the Chinese government is currently engaged in cultural and demographic genocide against local ethnic groups and where Chinese police have explored the use of genetic surveillance of minorities.