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China collecting DNA samples across Tibet, en masse and without consent: Report

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An alarming new report suggests that the Chinese Communist Party is conducting a widespread DNA collection program in Tibet, forcing nearly everyone in targeted locales — including children as young as 5 — to submit a blood sample without their informed consent.

According to the report issued by Human Rights Watch on Monday, the DNA collection drive began in 2019 as a "crime detection" program. However, HRW claims that DNA has been collected from people even without their consent and without any evidence that they had participated in a crime. In fact, there is no indication that anyone has been able to refuse to give a sample or been granted an exemption from the program.

"No village must be omitted from a township, no household must be omitted from a village, and no person must be omitted from a household," the report states.

The CCP has allegedly collected DNA from 14 distinct localities spread throughout all seven prefectures in the area dubbed the Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China, and participation in these localities has been nearly universal. According to HRW, police even collected blood samples from three separate kindergartens in Nyemo county last April, and there is no indication that the parents were ever given the chance to consent or refuse.

Though HRW strongly objects to governmental collection of DNA on a massive scale in general, the organization appears particularly incensed about the DNA samples extracted from children without their parents' consent.

"The authorities’ collection of DNA from children without their informed, meaningful, and freely given consent, or that of their caregivers, and extracted in educational settings where they could not meaningfully opt out or refuse to provide their personal health data, is a violation of children’s privacy," the report says.

"Furthermore, 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."

This latest DNA drive in the TAR is hardly the first time the CCP has drawn the ire of human rights groups and the international community for coercing people to give blood samples under the pretense of criminal investigation. The Guardian claims that as far back as 2000, the CCP began establishing a massive DNA databank which contains DNA from approximately 40 million people. The Chinese province Xinjiang, the home of approximately 12 million native Uyghurs, has likewise conducted mass DNA collection drives without any particular criminal or public safety pretext.

According to the Guardian, representatives for the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs declined to comment on the report.

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