Earlier this week, Chairman Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co- chair Senator Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), and the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China wrote to the U.S. Secretaries of Commerce, Treasury and State, Raimondo, Yellen, and Blinken urging that Chinese entities affiliated with the mass DNA collection in Tibet be held accountable.
This communication called for actions that include imposing export controls on technology used by People’s Republic of China’s police in Tibet, the End-User Review Committee1 to add the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Public Security Bureaus and any other entities affiliated with the mass DNA collection project to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s ‘Entity List’2 and impose Global Magnitsky sanctions for officials complicit in mass biometric data collection and the forced separation of Tibetan children from their parents.
Amidst the ongoing grave violations of human rights in Tibet this suite of actions would ensure that U.S. companies can no longer contribute to the ongoing coercive collection of DNA samples of Tibetans inside Tibet. By restricting the sale of advanced biometric technology to China, these measures would directly impact China’s project of enhancing their biometric ID surveillance capabilities in Tibet to further control the Tibetan population. People in Tibet – including young children – are being subject to on a mass scale as part of the government of China’s repressive machine. At least 1.2 million Tibetan people in Tibet have already had their DNA non- consensually sampled by Chinese state authorities.3
In previous communications to activists and government officials, US-based biotech giant Thermo Fisher Scientific has defended selling its DNA test kits, sequencers, and replacement parts to law enforcement in Tibet, on the grounds that these technologies are exclusively being used for “routine forensic investigations” and “police work.”4 However, for Tibetans living inside of Tibet, everyday acts such as such as speaking Tibetan and displaying the Tibetan flag are ground for arrest, detention, and often torture. ‘Regular policing’ for Tibetans is not about the prevention and prosecution of crimes as understood in a free, rules-based society; it is about keeping occupied people under surveillance.
Chemi Lhamo, Students for a Free Tibet said,
“Prohibitions against US companies profiting from human rights abuses in Tibet are long overdue. Because where simply being Tibetan in Tibet is a crime, technology sold for use in ‘normal policing’ will by definition exacerbate the genocide in Tibet. We call on the US government departments and Congress to work together swiftly and implement robust measures in place that will end US companies’ complicity in these gross violations”
Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network said,
“National governments and UN rights experts continue to express extreme concern about the situation in Tibet, yet Thermo Fisher Scientific, a company that directly equips China’s repression of Tibetans, continues to evade our requests to meet with impacted communities. Preventing the sale of this advanced biotechnology to Chinese police in Tibet is a targeted strategy to impact the capabilities of the authoritarian infrastructure that supports the brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet.”