'Hands off Tibetan DNA': Students protest against US company for collecting 'pin-prick' blood samples in Tibet
Protesters alleged that the company’s products may have contributed to the Chinese government’s abuse of Tibetan people
California: Tibetan students on Monday (local time) protested in two California counties against a US company for “selling” DNA kits to police in Tibet to enable mass surveillance and human rights abuses.
Under the banner “Hands Off Tibetan DNA,” they protested in Contra Costa and Alameda counties against Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.
Protesters alleged that the company’s products may have contributed to the Chinese government’s abuse of Tibetan people.
This is not the company’s first involvement in the Chinese government’s dystopian programs of mass surveillance and repression. Thermo Fisher has been criticized in the past for selling DNA equipment to the police in Xinjiang.
On 5 September 2022, Human Rights Watch released a report titled China: New Evidence of Mass DNA Collection in Tibet. The report states that children as young as five years old in Tibet are included in the DNA collection drive that fundamentally violates basic norms of free and informed consent.
According to another report published in the same month by The Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto, Chinese authorities may have collected roughly between 9,19,282 and 1,206,962 DNA samples in areas of Tibet referred to by the Chinese government as the Tibet Autonomous Region since 2016.
The report found that Chinese officers visited fields, monasteries, residential neighborhoods, businesses, and even schools to collect “pin-prick blood samples” from Tibetans.
The Chinese government is building the world’s largest police-run DNA database with the help of key industry partners in the West.
One such partner is Massachusetts-based company Thermo Fisher Scientific. Thermo Fisher is a key supplier of DNA profiling technology in Tibet.
Commissioners of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and Tibetans in December 2022 demanded answers from the US company (Thermo Fisher Scientific) about the supply chain related to China’s mass collection of DNA in Tibet and the involvement of its products in human rights violations in Tibet.
The Commissioners of the bicameral, bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) sent a letter to Marc Casper, Chairman and CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific, on December 15, 2022, expressing concern that the use of his company’s products for mass DNA collection in Tibet, which “could enable further gross violations” of the human rights of ethnic minorities in China.
The bipartisan letter was signed by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Chair and Cochair respectively of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), the CECC’s ranking members.
Students for a Free Tibet, Free Tibet, the International Tibet Network, the Tibetan Association of Boston, and Tibetan activists and supporters demand that Thermo Fisher Scientific answer the question of whether Thermo Fisher Scientific’s products involve the mass collection of DNA from Tibetans.
“Since October, Tibet groups have contacted the company on multiple occasions, requesting a meeting with Thermo Fisher CEO Marc Casper and for detailed responses to questions about the company’s knowledge of equipment sales to police in occupied Tibet and what steps the company has taken to prevent misuse of its products,” the organizations stated.
Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities have sought to justify the DNA collection drive as a means of solving crimes (such as bank robbery or kidnapping).
However, in reality, this is a textbook case of an authoritarian, colonizing regime finding new ways of repressing people in the name of “stability maintenance and social control,” said the Tibet Rights group.
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