Announcement comes after investors join Tibet activists in expressing concern about Thermo Fisher human ID products being used in human rights violations committed by Chinese authorities
Tibet rights campaigners are pleased to learn that Boston-based biotech giant Thermo Fisher Scientific has committed to ensuring its DNA kits (human Identification – “HID” – products) will not be sold in occupied Tibet, as of 31 December 2023.
For the past year, activists have been challenging the company for selling its DNA testing and analysis devices to the government of China, which is subjecting people in Tibet – including young children – to non-consensual, arbitrary DNA collection on a mass scale as part of its repressive campaign against cultural and social diversity. The lived reality for Tibetans in Tibet is that they are severely over-policed, and everyday acts such as speaking Tibetan and displaying the Tibetan flag can lead to arrest, detention, and often torture.
Azzad Asset Management, alongside European asset manager Ambienta, asset owner Mount St. Scholastica, and individual investor Mari Mennel-Bell, called on the company to conduct human rights impact assessments regarding the sale of the Company’s HID products to law enforcement agencies in regions where the use of such products could reasonably be expected to violate human rights.
Following engagement with the company, Thermo Fisher management committed to halting all sales of HID products – directly and via third parties – to Tibet, like their recent sales ban in the Uyghur Region (CH: Xinjiang). Management also signed a letter indicating an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders on implementation and assurance of their commitment to end sales in both Tibet and the Uyghur Region.
Chemi Lhamo, Campaign Director at Students for a Free Tibet commented: “Companies must understand that their complacency enables repression in occupied Tibet. Thermo Fisher, the top bioinformatics company, accepted the evidence we shared about the reality of policing in Tibet and has taken action to end its DNA kit sales in Tibet. This is the result of our collective organizing, and the same power will continue to hold Thermo Fisher to its promise.”
Joshua Brockwell, Investment Communications Director for Azzad Asset Management said: “As investors of conscience, Azzad is pleased that our calls on Thermo Fisher to make the right choice and help end biometric repression as a tool of Chinese authoritarian surveillance have been heeded. Halting sales of DNA collection kits to Tibetan authorities is not only more consistent with American values; it is an important way to mitigate potential harm to shareholder value from reputational risks associated with doing business in occupied territories. We look forward to continued dialogue with the company to ensure it meets its commitment.”
Mari Mennel-Bell said: “As someone who has been long concerned about the human rights violations being enacted in Tibet, I am pleased that Thermo Fisher Scientific has listened and taken action to end any complicity. This process shows that companies should not assume that individual shareholders will be passive investors. Increasingly they are following their consciences to push companies to do the right thing.”
Notes for editors:
Freedom in the World Report 2023, country scores, Freedom House, 2023
China: UN experts alarmed by separation of 1 million Tibetan children from families and forced assimilation at residential schools, United Nations, 3 February 2023
Tibetan police bought Thermo Fisher DNA equipment, Chinese government documents show, The Intercept, 13 September 2022
China: New Evidence of Mass DNA Collection in Tibet, Human Rights Watch, 5 September 2022
Mass DNA Collection in the Tibet Autonomous Region from 2016–2022, Citizen Lab, 13 September 2022
American Firm, Citing Ethics Code, Won’t Sell Genetic Sequencers in Xinjiang, Wall Stress Journal, 20 February 2019