China Is Collecting Child DNA For Alleged Crime Prevention

According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese authorities have been collecting DNA samples from people in Tibet, including kindergarten-age children without the consent of their parents.

In a new report released last week, Human Rights Watch presented new evidence showing the systematic collection of DNA from entire populations of Tibet as part of a so-called “crime detection” drive.

According to the report, there is no evidence that people can refuse to participate in the collection nor does it appear that the police have to provide credible evidence of criminal conduct before obtaining a DNA sample. Human Rights Watch concludes that the mass collection of DNA is a serious human rights violation that “cannot be justified as necessary or proportionate.”

China’s drive to collect DNA from populations began in 2019 under the guise of a policing campaign called the Three Greats (inspection, investigation, and mediation). It is designed to enhance China’s intensive local level policing. According to the Human Rights Watch report, Beijing began constructing local DNA databases in 2019.

Human Rights Watch was able to identify DNA collection drives in fourteen localities within the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), including an entire prefecture, two counties, two towns, seven villages, and two townships. It also found collection drives in the regions of Tibet outside of the TAR.

According to the report, DNA samples were being taken from every resident of some villages, including those as young as five.

In April, police in Nyemo county in the Lhasa municipality collected DNA samples from every child in three kindergartens, according to the report. There is no evidence that police obtained the consent of the parents before collecting the children’s DNA.

According to Human Rights Watch, the DNA collection drives in the TAR are similar to those conducted in the Xinjiang province that targeted entire communities rather than specific individuals, like recently released prisoners who may be of concern.