An opinion piece from The Washington Post asserts there is "overwhelming evidence" that the Chinese government has been forcibly collecting the DNA of the Tibetan people.
"Human rights groups report that police are taking blood samples from men, women, and children, with no legitimate justification, in all seven prefectures in the Tibetan autonomous region, often showing up at kindergartens. There's zero indication Tibetans can refuse," writes Post columnist Josh Rogin.
According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese police officials have been aggressive with this collection program. They even posted a public request for bids to construct a massive DNA database online; and in one municipality, authorities were instructed "not to miss a [single] village or monastery, and not to miss a [single] household or person."
And last September, the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab reportedly assessed that "one-quarter to one-third of Tibetans" had been forced to turn over DNA samples.
There are other components to China's surveillance efforts. The Post reports the Chinese government has been "leveraging technology, including artificial intelligence and big data" to create a comprehensive database of faces, voices, cellular makeup, and even an individual's style of walking.
"The forced and arbitrary DNA collection of thousands of Tibetans not only violates the fundamental rights of the Tibetan individuals involved but also puts future generations of Tibetans at risk," said Lobsang Sangay, the former president of the Tibetan government in exile. "This is a dark side of AI surveillance for the use of genealogical repression."
That "genealogical repression" could potentially involve the Chinese government treating family members of Tibetans who run afoul with the law as suspects. It might also deter supporters of Tibet from speaking out against China, out of fear of government retaliation.
The Post piece also calls out American companies that are still doing business with China-based companies, given that China has been accused of committing crimes against humanity — including possible genocide — involving the Uyghur population and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the region of Xinjiang.
The columnist cites Thermo Fisher Scientific, an American corporation that sells DNA test kits. In 2019, Thermo Fisher halted the sale of DNA test kits to Xinjiang police.
However, Thermo Fisher has yet to draw a similar line with Tibetan police for "committing the exact same abuses," according to the Post.
Thermo Fisher responded to the accusations of enabling China by saying it's "confident that the products that we or our distributors have provided are being used for their intended use in Tibet, namely police casework and forensics."
Also, a company spokesperson told the Post it's "worth noting that we abide by all U.S. and other applicable laws and regulations."
The laws relative to U.S.-based companies dealing directly with law enforcement agencies in China could be changing soon.
"The U.S. Department of Commerce prohibited sales to Xinjiang police in 2019 and should now prohibit sales to Tibetan police," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
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