Secretary Antony Blinken expressed concerns over the misuse of biotechnology by the Chinese government. In his remarks at the Freedom House 2023 Annual Freedom Award ceremony, the Secretary said “access to human genomic data opens up a whole other set of human rights concerns. Advances in biotechnology have enabled genomic surveillance based on a person’s DNA, potentially facilitating abuses. And we’ve seen some of those, for example, committed by the People’s Republic of China against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang. We’re also concerned by reports of the spread of mass DNA collection to Tibet as an additional form of control and surveillance over the Tibetan population.”
A Human Rights Watch in September 2022 reported new Evidence of mass DNA collection in Tibet. The report said blood samples for DNA collection were being systematically collected from children at kindergartens and from other local residents. The samples were being taken without consent. The Central Tibetan Administration has stated that the Secretary’s remarks on the issue “has made him the senior-most US official to highlight the concern.”
The annual Freedom Award is awarded by Freedom House to outstanding leaders in the cause of freedom and democracy. The 2023 award was given to Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian democracy activist, and the Women of Iran. Past recipients include the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet in 1991; Chen Guancheng of China in 2013; Ilham Tohti of East Turkistan in 2019; and the Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Movement in 2020.