China, Technology

PDC 7 – Doubts within China on gene-edited babies story

A Chinese scientist call He Jiankui recently claimed to have performed gene editing for two newly borned babies. This was reported widely within and outside China. So what are the reactions to this news in China?

Not good.

Government

He Jiankui, the scientist who performed the procedure showed a document which appears show the approval from the medical ethics commission of the hospital:

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Document for approval from the regulator, shared by He Jiankui

However, the regulator in charge of medical ethnics quickly issued an statement saying that the medical ethics commission of the hospital did not file any records to the medical ethics commission of Shenzhen. An investigation is underway.

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Response from medical ethics regulator

Also, according to a separate news media who interviewed the people whose signatures are on the document, they have no recollection of signing it. The prompts the suspicion that the signatures could be fake.

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News report claims the signature could be fake

University

Southern University of Science and Technology of China in Shenzhen, the university in which He Jiankui is employed, issued a statement which says:

  • The university has already suspended He Jiankui’s salaries since February 2018.
  • The university and the biology department were not aware of the research.
  • The ethics committee in biology department considers the act a violation of academic ethics and regulations.
  • The university is inviting experts to form an independent commission to conduct deeper investigations.

The hospital

The hospital, in which He Jiankui claims babies were born, told reports from news media that the experiment was performed not in the hospital and the babies were not born in the hospital.

Scientific Community

A post by 知识分子 on Weibo shows a statement signed by 122 Chinese scientists condemning the act. This post is also widely circulated on social media such as Weibo and WeChat.

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Screenshot of the post signed by 122 scientists

CCTV (State media)

CCTV posted on Weibo which summarized the responses from the above.

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CCTV post on its official account on Weibo

Netizens

Mostly negative, judging from the comments on Weibo. Some find it scary, some question how it passed ethics reviews.

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Weibo comments on the topic

This post was updated a few times to fix factual inaccuracies.

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