US Commission on China requests investigation to reduce biometric monitoring in Tibet

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) on October 23 issued a letter urging the Secretaries of Commerce, State and Treasury to impose export controls on the technology used by People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Public Security Bureaus and other entities in Tibet to collect biometric data. The letter called for the implementation of Global Magnitsky sanctions targeting PRC officials accountable for the enforced separation of Tibetan children from their families- a program resulting in severe human rights infringements and the erasure of cultural and linguistic identities.

The request follows a prior letter by CECC Commissioners dated January 24, 2023, addressed to the CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific that expressed concerns that Thermo Fisher products were used for mass biometric data collection and surveillance that “could enable further gross violations” of the human rights of Tibetans.

“We write to you concerning mass DNA collection by police in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other egregious human rights abuses facing the people of Tibet. We ask that you work together to take additional actions to address these abuses and stop commercial activities by companies participating in the deployment and management of biometric ID surveillance- in particular, technology used in Tibet and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) for political identification and racial profiling,” the letter by CECC stated.

The statement revealed that, as a result of congressional hearings and investigations, it has been established that extensive DNA and other biometric data collection has been taking place in Tibet for at least the past six years. Furthermore, it cited the findings of Citizen Lab, a Toronto-based technology and human rights monitoring group, which reported that between 2016 and 2022, the police in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) gathered an estimated 900,000 to 1.2 million DNA samples, equivalent to a quarter to a third of the TAR’s population. It was also noted, according to Human Rights Watch, that the collection of blood samples occurred without consent, including those of children at kindergartens and other residents, and without any requirement of evidence of criminal activity.

In the letter addressed to Secretary Raimondo, Secretary Yellen, and Secretary Blinken, it was recommended that, given each of your roles on the End-User Review Committee, the inclusion of TAR Public Security Bureaus and any affiliated entities involved in the extensive DNA collection initiative on the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Entity List should be considered. This measure is vital to prevent U.S. companies from participating in or having any form of indirect or direct involvement in the development of biometric ID surveillance capacities in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) or other Tibetan regions, thus ensuring their non-complicity in these activities.

News Desk

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