Hong Kong denied plans to harvest residents’ DNA as part of a China-backed coronavirus-testing blitz, as deep political mistrust further complicates the city’s efforts to contain its worst outbreak ever.

The Hong Kong government Sunday welcomed Chinese government experts who are setting up a temporary laboratory to dramatically expand its ability to track a third wave of COVID-19 cases. The push quickly fanned suspicions that authorities would use the opportunity to collect DNA samples from residents, a tactic local law enforcement have recently employed in activist arrests, after widespread use by police in Xinjiang and elsewhere on the mainland.

The Hong Kong government "solemnly clarified that this is absolutely unfounded,” pledging in a statement that samples "will not be transported to the mainland for testing.” The government blamed "certain individuals” for spreading the theory online and promised to look into "whether spreading untrue claims intentionally by certain individuals would constitute criminal offense.”