Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed concerns over reports of China forcefully gathering DNA of Tibetans in Tibet, Phayul reported. Secretary Blinken said: “We’re also concerned about reports of the spread of mass DNA collection in Tibet as an additional form of control and surveillance over the Tibetan population.”
The US State Secretary added that access to human genomic data opens up a whole other set of human rights concerns and advances in biotechnology have enabled genomic surveillance based on a person’s DNA, potentially facilitating abuses.
Police in the Tibet Autonomous Region have since June 2016, engaged in a mass DNA collection program targeting men, women, and children across the region. Mass DNA collection appears unconnected to any ongoing criminal investigation. Instead, our research suggests that mass DNA collection is a form of social control directed against the Tibetan people, Citizens Lab, a civil society organization stated, according to Phayul.
Human Rights Watch in a report released on September 5, 2021, said Chinese authorities are significantly increasing policing, including arbitrary collection of DNA from residents in many towns and villages throughout the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
The report also stated that people cannot decline to provide their DNA and that police do not need credible evidence of any criminal conduct to demand samples. A report from Lhasa municipality in April 2022 stated that blood samples for DNA collection were being systematically collected from children at kindergartens and from other residents.
A report from a Tibetan township in the so-called Qinghai province in December 2020 stated that DNA was being collected from all boys aged five and above, as per Phayul.
Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The Chinese government is already subjecting Tibetans to pervasive repression. Now the authorities are literally taking blood without consent to strengthen their surveillance capabilities.”
According to Phayul, a report from Citizen Lab released in September 2022, claimed that the Chinese government had collected genetic material from nearly a third of the population in Tibet, 1.2 million out of 3.6 million without clearly obtaining consent from those involved. The CCP has used genetic materials collected from Uyghurs in East Turkestan (Ch. Xinjiang) to further its surveillance systems and forced ethnic change campaigns in the region.
“Throughout its brutal occupation of Tibet, China has used Tibet as a laboratory for relentless methods of social control, including this horrific campaign of mass DNA collection,” said the advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet.