Boston — US company Thermo Fisher Scientific has agreed to stop selling DNA test kits used by Chinese police in occupied Tibet for over one million Tibetans, including children, without their consent, following numerous protests and campaigns by Tibetan activists in the US and around the world.
Recently, a spokesperson of Boston-based Thermo Fisher Scientific announced that, based on a number of factors (evidence), the company had decided to stop selling human identification technology in the Tibet region. This is the result and victory of Tibetan activists who organised protests against the company for its DNA test kits sold to the Chinese police, which were used on around one million Tibetans without their consent. They also campaigned on the issue and raised their concerns with the company's shareholders, which led to the successful outcome of the action.
Tibetan activists from Students for a Free Tibet, Free Tibet, International Tibet Network and other organisations have organised numerous protests against Thermo Fisher Scientific in Dharamshala, India, England, Europe and the United States. They have also called on the company to stop selling DNA test kits to the Chinese authorities for use on Tibetans, including Tibetan children, without their consent.
Chemi Lhamo, Campaigns Director at Students for a Free Tibet commented, “Companies must understand that their complacency enables repression in occupied Tibet. Thermo Fisher, the top bioinformatics company, accepted the evidence we shared about the reality of policing in Tibet and has taken action to end its DNA kit sales in Tibet. This is the result of our collective organizing, and the same power will continue to hold Thermo Fisher to its promise.”
Joshua Brockwell, Investment Communications Director for Azzad Asset Management said, “As investors of conscience, Azzad is pleased that our calls on Thermo Fisher to make the right choice and help end biometric repression as a tool of Chinese authoritarian surveillance have been heeded. Halting sales of DNA collection kits to Tibetan authorities is not only more consistent with American values; it is an important way to mitigate potential harm to shareholder value from reputational risks associated with doing business in occupied territories. We look forward to continued dialogue with the company to ensure it meets its commitment.”
Mari Mennel-Bell said, “As someone who has been long concerned about the human rights violations being enacted in Tibet, I am pleased that Thermo Fisher Scientific has listened and taken action to end any complicity. This process shows that companies should not assume that individual shareholders will be passive investors. Increasingly they are following their consciences to push companies to do the right thing.”
Citizen Lab reported in September 2022, that Chinese police may have collected between 920,000 and 1.2 million DNA samples in the so called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) over the past six years and Human Rights Watch also reported in the same month, that Chinese authorities were systematically collecting DNA from residents of the TAR, including taking blood from 5-year-old children without their parents' consent. Following these reports, U.S. government officials, including the bipartisan chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, spoke out about China's massive DNA collection in Tibet and called on the Chinese authorities to stop this action, as well as on the U.S. government to sanction Chinese authorities linked to this action.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at Freedom House’s annual Freedom Awards in May 2023, “We are also concerned by reports of the spread of mass DNA collection to Tibet as an additional form of control and surveillance over the Tibetan population.”