Boston-based biotech giant Thermo Fisher Scientific has made a significant commitment to halt the sale of its DNA testing kits (known as Human Identification or "HID" products) in occupied Tibet, effective from December 31, 2023. The move comes after mounting pressure from both investors and Tibet rights campaigners, who expressed deep concerns regarding the potential involvement of Thermo Fisher's products in human rights violations perpetrated by Chinese authorities.
For over a year, activists have been challenging Thermo Fisher's decision to sell DNA testing and analysis devices to the Chinese government, citing reports of non-consensual and arbitrary mass DNA collection targeting Tibetan individuals, including children. This DNA collection is part of China's wider repressive campaign against cultural and social diversity in Tibet. Tibetans in the region face severe over-policing, with everyday acts such as speaking Tibetan or displaying the Tibetan flag potentially leading to arrest, detention, and torture.
Investors like Azzad Asset Management, Ambienta, Mount St. Scholastica, and individual investor Mari Mennel-Bell joined forces with Tibet activists, urging Thermo Fisher to conduct human rights impact assessments regarding the sale of their HID products to law enforcement agencies in regions where human rights violations were likely.
Following engagements with these stakeholders, Thermo Fisher management pledged to discontinue all sales of HID products, both directly and through third parties, in Tibet. This move echoes their earlier decision to cease sales in the Uyghur Region (Xinjiang). The company also committed to ongoing dialogues with stakeholders to ensure the implementation and assurance of their pledge to end sales in both Tibet and the Uyghur Region.
Chemi Lhamo, Campaigns Director at Students for a Free Tibet, praised the decision as a result of collective efforts, emphasizing the need for companies to understand the implications of their actions in occupied territories. Investors, including Joshua Brockwell of Azzad Asset Management and Mari Mennel-Bell, highlighted the importance of ethical investment decisions and the role of shareholders in urging companies to act responsibly.
Thermo Fisher confirmed its decision to halt sales of HID products in Tibet in mid-2023. However, stakeholders remain skeptical about the company's initial reluctance to address concerns and defend sales to the region, calling for greater transparency in their actions and decisions.
Edited and collated by Team TRC