China is Collecting DNA Samples From the Entire Tibetan Population for its Policing System

China is Collecting DNA Samples From the Entire Tibetan Population for its Policing System
Lungta. Manasarovar lake. Tibet. Source: Raimond Klavins/Flickr, 2014.



Fleur Harmsen


Tibet and Human Rights Researcher,


Global Human Rights Defence.



         China is collecting DNA samples throughout occupied Tibet for its grass-root policing system. The latter is done in order to determine the perpetrators of serious crimes committed in the region. New evidence shows a systemic DNA collection drive by China for entire populations across Tibet for “crime detection” purposes. 

The DNA collection drive began in 2019 under the policing campaign called the “three greats”, strengthening China’s grassroots-level policing. Human Rights Watch identified DNA collection drives in 14 localities across the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) with one entire prefecture, two counties, two towns, two townships and seven villages. 

Samples have been taken from all residents of some villages, including children. In April, police in Nyemo County in the Lhasa municipality collected DNA from entire classes of children at three kindergartens and no suggestion about parental involvement in the process was present in the public reports. However, compelled DNA collection can amount to serious intrusion on the right to privacy, bodily integrity, and human dignity. 

Article 23(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to human dignity. Human dignity recognized the equal, inherent and inalienable value of every person, touching upon aspects of human experiences, privacy, education, citizenship and more.

Article 12 of the UDHR stipulates that all individuals have the right to privacy and family life. This right also ensures that no State entity or person interferes in this right. 

Article 29 writes that individuals may be subjected to limitations of the rights enshrined in the declaration only when such limitations ensure meeting the requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. In this regard, the limitations of the rights enshrined in the declaration must be legitimate and proportionate. 

China is seen to violate articles 23(3), 12 and 29 of the UDHR as it is sampling DNA information without the consent of the Tibetan population, thus affecting their right to privacy and human dignity. The sampling of DNA does not amount to the legitimate and proportional threshold of article 29 of the UDHR, in turn violating that article.

Sources and further reading:

Tibetan Review (2022, September 5). China amassing DNA samples from entire Tibetan populations for its grassroots-level policing system. Retrieved September 6, 2022, from