The team of scientists who announced the birth of genetically modified babies has been condemned by a Chinese court in a country that has no laws governing the editing of the human genome.
He Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison on December 30, 2019, following a trial held in camera in Shenzhen, China court. The scientist caused an uproar after modifying the DNA of two human embryos in order to immunize them against the AIDS virus with which their father was infected.
At least three such babies were born in 2018, according to the official news agency Xinhua (New China): the first “cloned” humans, according to He Jiankui and his team, using the Crispr-Cas9 technique, a genetic “pair of scissors,” capable of deactivating the gene which plays a key role in the spread of AIDS inside cells.
China News reports that the Shenzhen court ruled that the defendants, “in pursuit of fame and profit, have deliberately violated existing national regulations for scientific and medical research, and crossed the red line in matters of ethics.”
A conviction that is not what it seems, however: after receiving the minimum sentence for his offense—three years, up to a maximum of ten years under Chinese law—He Jiankui said his actions were “safe and ethical” and that he remained “proud” of what he had done.
Far from marking a return to the reason of a China too often accused of playing sorcerer’s apprentices, the magistrates's decision also means that Chinese scientists do not want to be guided by the West, and that they look unfavorably on the ethical rules from countries of Christian culture, as already explained in 2016 by Simon Leplâtre, the La Croix correspondent in Beijing.
If medical ethics exist in the land of the dragon, it is based on the Confucian tradition. It consists of a form of opportunism which is, in the words of Confucius, “the distinguishing feature of the Sage.” With this perspective, “you have to follow a middle way in all things, walk without determined intention, do what is best, for the moment, in the given case, bit by bit.”
This very pragmatic morality has shaped Chinese thought for many centuries, but it sorely lacks the solid foundation it would find in a true philosophy of man. In China as elsewhere, it can only be found in the light of Christian Revelation. For the time being, it is Marxist materialism that permeates and leads astray.