China has been systematically harvesting genetic information from Tibetans. As many as 1.2 million Tibetans have had DNA samples taken, including children as young as five.
Free Tibet has launched a new campaign to urge Thermo Fisher Scientific, a billion dollar US company, to stop supplying DNA test kits to the police forces in occupied Tibet.
The campaign follows reports by rights groups that exposed the unprecedented scale of police-led DNA collection of as many as 1.2 million Tibetans, including children as young as five.
It is highly likely that the biomedical technology developed by Thermo Fisher Scientific is being used as part of this DNA collection drive. In September the Intercept revealed that Thermo Fisher Scientific equipment, including DNA kits and other equipment, were being purchased by police in occupied Tibet.
Tibet groups have raised concerns that China’s DNA drive adds a new layer of repression to Tibet, and is discriminatory since it targets Tibetans based on their identity, categorised as an “ethnic minority” following Tibet’s annexation in 1950, and which continues to be exterminated under Xi Jinping’s authoritarian rule.
The DNA Database storing Tibetans’ information can be accessed at any time by the Chinese government and used on the grounds of public health, national security and public interest, as stipulated in the Article 16 of China’s Regulations on Human Genetic Resources Management.
The mass collection of Tibetans’ genetic information builds on the already extensive surveillance system installed across the country, leaving Tibetans with minimal privacy. Policies such as neighbourhood surveillance systems were introduced by then Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.
The Hands off Tibetans’ DNA campaign is being led by a number of Tibet groups. A petition launched by Free Tibet on Friday saw nearly 3,000 signatures in the first weekend alone.