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Thermo Fisher will no longer sell DNA kits in Tibet

Thermo Fisher will no longer sell DNA kits in Tibet

American biotech company Thermo Fisher will no longer sell its DNA identification kits and equipment in Tibet in response to human rights concerns with China’s use of biometric surveillance in the area, according to The World. The restriction does not extend to all of China.

Over the past six years, China has collected 900,000 to 1.2 million DNA samples from Tibetan adults and children – enough to make up one third of the region’s population.

In an interview with The World, Emile Dirks, researcher at the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab research institute, says he credits the decision to cease sales to advocacy from Students for a Free Tibet, Human Rights Watch, and bioethics researcher Yves Moreau.

“The police in Tibet have quite a horrendous record of human rights abuses within that region,” says Dirks. “Mass DNA collection is one more reminder that the people of Tibet have that they are under the constant watch and monitoring of the state” and is “a gross violation of the right to individual privacy that people within that region should enjoy,” he continues.

In October 2023, a special U.S. Congressional commission called on the departments of Commerce, State, and Treasury to restrict the export of DNA kits to China as they were being used “for political identification and racial profiling.” Dirks, likewise, says DNA collection proceeds in Tibet without any relation to police work.

Thermo Fisher defended its contracts in China last year, saying they were “to match only the needs of routine police casework and forensic investigations.”

This follows recent news that the Chinese government has also collected DNA samples from over 200 Uyghurs and Kazakh people, two ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang region of China, for genetic sequencing without meeting ethical standards.

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