A Massachusetts company called Thermo Fisher Scientific is being criticised and protested for selling DNA testing equipment to the Tibetan police. The protests, which took place in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, were organised by Tibetan students carrying the banner “Hands Off Tibetan DNA.” The students say that the company’s DNA tests, which were used to keep a close eye on people, led to human rights violations by the Chinese government.
According to a study by Human Rights Watch, the Chinese government has collected DNA samples from Tibetans, including children as young as five years old, without their free and informed consent. The study, which came out on September 5, 2022, says that the Chinese government has collected between 919,282 and 1,206,966 DNA samples from Tibetans living in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Another study by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab supports these findings. The Chinese authorities are said to have visited Tibetans in their homes, monasteries, businesses, neighbourhoods, and even schools to collect DNA samples.
In December 2022, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), a bipartisan and bicameral commission, sent a letter to the CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific, Marc Casper, expressing concern over the use of his company’s products for mass DNA collection in Tibet. The letter, signed by important CECC members like Senators Jeff Merkley and Marco Rubio and Representatives Jim McGovern and Chris Smith, says that collecting Tibetan DNA “could allow for more gross violations” of the human rights of ethnic minorities in China.
Tibetan groups like Students for a Free Tibet, Free Tibet, the International Tibet Network, and the Tibetan Association of Boston are asking Thermo Fisher Scientific to answer questions about why it sells products to the police in occupied Tibet and what steps it has taken to keep its products from being misused. Since October 2022, the groups have called the company many times to ask to meet with the CEO and get answers to their questions.
The Chinese government claims that collecting DNA samples solves crimes such as bank robbery and kidnapping and promotes stability and social control. However, the Tibet Rights Organisation argues that this is just a new method of persecution used by an authoritarian dictatorship.
Tibetan students and groups criticise and protest against Thermo Fisher Scientific because it sold DNA testing equipment to the Tibetan police. This has led to human rights violations in Tibet. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China also worries that the company’s products are being used for mass DNA collection in Tibet. Different groups ask the company to answer questions about how its products are sold and what steps are taken to keep them from being misused.