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  • 06 Feb, 2024
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Explained: Why are Tibetans protesting against ThermoFisher?


Tibetan activists and advocate groups from around the world have joined forces and protested against Thermo Fisher to stop selling DNA kits to the Chinese government, which steals Tibetan DNA and violates Tibetan human rights. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc, based in the Massachusetts town of Waltham, is an American provider of scientific equipment, reagents, and consumables as well as software services.

Tibetan right groups of Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association, National Democratic Party of Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet protested in Dharamshala on Friday against China's mass DNA collection policy, demanding an end to human rights violations against Tibetans in the region. During the protests, Tibetan right groups expressed concern about how DNA samples taken from Tibetan children as young as five years old are being used by China to strengthen its mass surveillance programme using Thermo Fisher kits.

They staged a play in Dharamshala depicting the mishandling of DNA collection by the Chinese government in Tibet, which it claims to be its own territory. They also demonstrated using placards which read, "Thermo Fisher, Hands off Tibetan DNA. Tibetan DNA is not for profit."

Meahwhile, Free Tibet Organization, in cooperation with the Tibetan Community in Britain, visited Thermo Fisher UK headquarters to speak with employees about the company's unethical profiteering from the illegal mass DNA of innocent Tibetans. The London-based rights organisation also visited the Chinese embassy and university science campuses to spread the word about their campaign.

Many Tibetan student activists and campaigners, supported by Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, and Uyghurs, have taken to the streets to educate employees about the company's complicity in mass DNA collection via DNA kits supplied to Chinese authorities inside Tibet. To show their support for the campaign, youth activists around the world posted pictures of their hands imprinted with #HandsOffTibetanDNA on their social media accounts.

On 01 February, Tibetan Women's Association (TWA) organised a petition drive at McLeod Square in Dharamshala to ask Thermo Fisher to stop supplying DNA kits to the Chinese government as part of the global week of action campaign.

Tibetan students in two California counties also protested against ThermoFisher, a US company that "sold" DNA kits to Chinese police. Under the banner "Hands Off Tibetan DNA," they demonstrated against Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Protesters alleged that the products of the company contributed to the abuse of Tibetans by the Chinese government.

According to a report released on September 5, 2022 by Human Rights Watch, Chinese DNA collection is widespread in Tibet. According to the report, drives were planned in 14 different locations (one prefecture, two counties, two cities, two townships, and seven villages) across seven prefecture-level regions. According to government procurement papers, Chinese police in Tibet apparently requested bids from companies to build a regional-level DNA database in July 2019, indicating that officials were preparing for a collection drive across the region. In November 2019, police in Nyingtri, Tibet, announced the establishment of a local DNA database. Children as young as five years old are reportedly included in Tibet's DNA collection drive, which violates basic standards of informed consent.

According to another report published in the same month by The Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto, Chinese authorities may have collected between 9,19,282 and 1,206,962 DNA samples in areas of Tibet known as the Tibet Autonomous Region by the Chinese government since 2016. According to the report, Chinese officers went to fields, monasteries, residential areas, businesses, and even schools to collect "pin-prick blood samples" from Tibetans.

Signing the petition only takes 30 seconds. Will you take a stand with us to call on Thermo Fisher to STOP helping China steal Tibetan DNA? Click here to sign the petition.

Edited and collated by Team TRC