Tibet under Chinese occupation has been repressed since 1949 when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established. Yet even with the naked eye one can witness how since the 7th Tibet Work Forum, that was held from August 29-30, 2020 – the level of repression and oppression has drastically increased and is at an unprecedented rate currently. The recent report by Human Rights Watch mentions thatthere is the arbitrary collection of DNA from residents in several town and villages throughout Tibet and the so called Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) in particular.
What these developments clearly indicate is that China, now having confidence in its technological surveillance is moving into the next phase of its repressive and authoritative policy which is of Bio-Security. This involves the creation of a biological database of people so that they can monitor them beyond the confines of technology as well. Thereby creating a net of surveillance that is both artificial and technological, something which renowned thinker Michael Foucault mentioned when elaborating on Bio-Power and how States, authoritarian states in particular would utilize to bring stability for themselves rather than the people whom they serve.
Mass DNA collection in Tibet:
The collection of genetic material is not new to China as its ministry of public security runs the world’s largest forensic DNA database, which probably contains more than 100m profiles. This activity involves gathering samples from criminal suspect or victims of crime, similar to what western countries do. But since 2017 Beijing under the leadership of Xi Jinping has transformed the functioning of this activity and launched a campaign to collect DNA from 10% of all Chinese men with the sole purpose to trace a man’s male relative. This move was decried by several activists as they saw it as a means through which a perceived troublemakers would be punished and threatened by involving his parents and family.
Such an intention and ploy were a functioning modus operandi by Beijing especially in the occupied regions. For Tibetans it was common knowledge that if you have family and links in Tibet you must be apolitical even if you are personally far away from the direct clutches of Beijing’s authoritarian rule. The reason being that your family members were immediately questioned, threatened and even sentenced due to your actions that occurs far beyond the jurisdiction of Beijing. In 2018, a former Tibetan political prisoner, Tenzin Woeser who crossed the Himalayas and sought refuge was subject to mental torture personally and saw physical violence acted upon his mother in Tibet by the Chinese authorities. For more than a fortnight his mother was forcefully held in detention and demanded that her son return to Tibet. This is just one of many incidents whereby not only Tibetans but those under the current Chinese Communist party (CCP) comes across in their day-to-day life.
Now the party-state (CCP effectively rules the nation and hence the term party-state) has taken things even further and implemented Bio-security as an agency to control the population, specifically those in the occupied regions of Tibet, East Turkistan and Southern Mongolia being targeted. We already have seen the horrors of Bio-security as China used biological means to sterilize thousands of Uighurs Muslims. And the recent mass DNA collection drive occurring in Tibet where Human Rights Watch identified drives in 14 distinct localities across 7 prefectural-level areas indicate how wide this project is under the current regime.
Security blanket in the run up of the 20th National People’s Congress:
The timing of these and other drives which coincides with a. The application of directives from the 7th Tibet Work Forum and b. The lead up to the 20th National People’s Congress highlights very clearly how the actions from Beijing were very much planned and in many ways is going according to plan as well.
The ultimate goal of the recent revealed mass DNA collection drive without the consent of Tibetans, is to keep the Tibetans busy and engaged so that they, along with the millions of Chinese who continue to be unhappy and resent the communist government in its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic with its zero-covid policy would not come together and form a united entity protesting against the regime. Notably with the 20th National People’s Congress just around the corner, one expects and can conclude that Beijing especially President Xi Jinping wants to have a smooth meeting that will eventually see him elected as the president for an unprecedented 3rd term.
On top of this prevailing context, Beijing has optimized the given opportunity and went ahead with its two-pronged security blanket, one that sees it transcending the Skynet like surveillance already in place. This new security apparatus covers the loopholes of the prevailing technological centric structure and sets an unwanted precedent and template that would likely be carried forward and implemented in the Chinese mainland and its Han people as well. Such an action has time and again been practiced by Beijing, whereby projects in Tibet, which are repressive and oppressive if successful are implemented beyond Tibet including its very own Han people as well. The recent abduction of Peng Shuai and other prominent Chinese of recent years has been adoptedbecause these activities have and continues to take place in Tibet without any apparent pushback. The abduction of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima when he was 6 years old and continues to remain in incognito,spotlights how Beijing gains confidence from its repressive initiatives in Tibet and its occupied regions.
In a nutshell, we are witnessing gulag and gestapo like polices being implemented in Tibet. A callback to an era where colonization was present. If we are to ever do away with the dark ages of colonization, we must stand united and call out China, in particular the Chinese Communist Party for its blatant actions including such Bio-Security measures which totally disregards the core of humanity that all humans possess.