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Hong Kong Denied Visa For Chinese Doctor ‘He Jiankui’ Who Claimed Gene-Edited Babies

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He Jiankui

(CTN NEWS) – BEIJING – A Chinese doctor whose claims that he created the first genetically modified babies sparked an ethical controversy five years ago had his visa to Hong Kong denied on Tuesday, just hours after he revealed his plans to conduct research there.

When He Jiankui revealed in 2018 that he had changed the embryos of twin girls, he stunned the world. His work was criticized as unethical by many in the scientific community.

He was found guilty of practicing medicine without a license by a mainland Chinese court in 2019 and given a three-year prison term and a 3 million yuan ($445,000) punishment.

He declared on Tuesday in Beijing, ten months after his release, that he had been given a Hong Kong visa and was in communication with academic institutions, research centers, and businesses in the financial center.

He stated that he intends to research gene therapy for uncommon genetic diseases and that he would consider working in Hong Kong if the right chance presented itself.

Chinese scientist, He Jiankui arrives to speak at a brief press conference in Beijing Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

He Jiankui In A Press Conference

At a brief press conference, he declared, “My scientific research will comply with the ethical norms and the international consensus on scientific research.”

Nevertheless, the Hong Kong government stated it had canceled the visa hours later, declining to mention He by name and instead saying it was in response to information about a visa applicant who had been imprisoned due to questionable medical practices.

The report read, “After examining the application, the visa agency suspected somebody had submitted false statements to gain the visa approval.” “The visa is illegal in compliance with the law,” the director of immigration declared.

Law enforcement officials would launch a criminal inquiry to follow up on the case.

An Associated Press inquiry for comment received no immediate response from him.

His declaration in 2018 ignited a worldwide discussion about the morality of gene editing.

Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, arrives to speak at a brief press conference in Beijing, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

CRISPR Technology Tested Elsewhere In Humans

He claimed in talks with The Associated Press that he had attempted to deactivate a gene that permits HIV to enter cells to give the offspring the capacity to resist AIDS by using CRISPR technology.

Many in the scientific community attacked He’s work as medically unnecessary and immoral, partly because any genetic modifications could be handed down to future generations. CRISPR technology has been tested elsewhere in humans to treat ailments.

In condemning him in 2019, a Chinese court in Shenzhen cited his lack of medical training, the pursuit of fame and wealth, willful disregard for Chinese laws governing scientific research, and transgression of medical and scientific ethics.

The court also acknowledged a third birth, stating that his project resulted in the birth of three gene-edited children to two different mothers.

After being freed in April last year, he was asked to lecture at the University of Oxford the following month. Nevertheless, he said last month via Twitter that he had canceled the visit because he was unprepared to share his experiences from the previous three years.

He called a news conference on Tuesday and invited around six media outlets, but he left after making a statement for about two minutes. Questions were not answered as he walked away.

Chinese scientist, He Jiankui arrives to speak at a brief press conference in Beijing Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

He Jiankui Wished Council To Review His Future Work

In a later written statement, he stated that he intended to set up an ethics advisory council to review his future work and guarantee an open and transparent procedure.

He declared that he intended to study Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic condition that frequently results in people dying from heart and lung failure at around 20. Gene therapy may be helpful, he suggested, even if there is no known treatment for the illness.

He stated that his team’s goal is to apply AI techniques to enhance gene therapy and reduce treatment costs so that every family can afford it.

When He received a visa in Hong Kong earlier this year as part of a new initiative to attract international talent, there were worries that the recipients might have criminal histories.

The Immigration Department states that potential immigrants must satisfy standard immigration conditions, such as having a “clean criminal record” and posing “no security or criminal issues” in Hong Kong.

Chris Sun, the minister of labor in Hong Kong, declined to comment on specific instances while acknowledging that candidates were not required to divulge any criminal histories during the application process. He stated candidates must start doing so on Wednesday.

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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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