China: New evidence of mass DNA collection in Tibet


China has stepped up DNA collection efforts across Tibet, including taking blood samples from children as young as five years old. 

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report said that Chinese authorities are committing a “serious rights violation” by expanding DNA collection efforts across Tibet. Pak Yiu, writing in Nikkei Asia, said that the Chinese authorities have stepped up a campaign to collect genetic samples from at least half a million people in just one municipality since authorities kicked off the mass collection drive in July 2019. “DNA collection from each resident in localities within Tibet is significant not just in terms of concerns about consent or privacy; it represents a further advance in close management of the population by the government,” the report said. The group’s report identified several online articles that said children as young as five were included in the DNA collection drive. In one article published in April, police reportedly collected blood samples from children at a Nimue County kindergarten.

The report added that “There is no publicly available evidence suggesting people can decline to participate or that police have credible evidence of criminal conduct that might warrant such collection.” 

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have defended the campaign as a crime-fighting tool to link suspects to offences, but the rights group said it threatens individual privacy rights, said Pak.

“The authorities’ stated use for this data—crime detection—does not appear to constitute a legitimate, proportionate purpose that serves the child’s best interest,” the report said. 

In mid-2019, the Tibetan public security department called for tender bids to build a regional-level DNA database. Human Rights Watch identified seven municipalities in the mountainous region, including in the western part of Tibet, where the drive has been taking place, reported Nikkei Asia.