Free Tibet sends "messages in bottles" to BlackRock

Free Tibet staff protest outside BlackRock with supporters' messages in bottles
Free Tibet staff protest outside BlackRock with supporters' messages in bottles
6th September 2016

Free Tibet hands over letters from supporters, urging BlackRock to divest from Tibet Water Resources Ltd

Free Tibet staged its third protest at the London headquarters of the investment company BlackRock today. The multinational company is one of several western shareholders in the Chinese company Tibet Water Resources Ltd (TWRL), which is bottling water from Tibet’s rapidly receding glaciers to sell as high-end bottled water in China. Free Tibet is calling for BlackRock to sell all of its shares in TWRL due to the risks to Tibet's environment and society posed by water bottling and the wider Chinese programme of extraction.

During the protest, Free Tibet staff held banners in front of BlackRock’s offices and stood behind boxes containing 66 plastic bottles, one for each year of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Each bottle contained a message from a Free Tibet supporter. Free Tibet later handed these messages to BlackRock, along with a petition and a letter urging BlackRock to divest.

BlackRock Protest
A bottle of Tibet 5100 with message
Bottles of Tibet 5100 with message

Free Tibet’s protest is part of the organisation’s Grand Theft Tibet campaign, which aims to challenge China’s extensive programme of extraction inside Tibet.  Tibet’s water resources are under increasing pressure due to a combination of water bottling, mining and the construction of dams across almost every major river in Tibet.

Shared responsibility

TWRL produces Tibet Spring 5100, a high-end brand of bottled water that is sold across China and has been used as the official drinking water at the National Congress of the Communist Party of China. It is one of at least 16 water bottling companies operating in Tibet after signing a deal with the regional government of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 2014 as part of the Chinese government’s “Sharing Tibet’s Water with the world” initiative. The Chinese government, which hopes to see 10 million tonnes of bottled water produced by 2025, is supporting water bottling companies in Tibet through incentives such as tax breaks and lower extraction fees.

BlackRock is one of several western shareholders in TWRL, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Free Tibet has written to the other shareholders, urging them to sell their shares. So far one company has responded to inform Free Tibet that it no longer owns its shares in TWRL.

Stop the bus

Free Tibet is also campaigning against the extraction of Tibet’s lithium by the Chinese electric vehicle and battery manufacturer BYD. Over 1,000 supporters have written to London’s transport authority, Transport for London, asking them to halt the future order of BYD buses.

Transport for London has responded to supporters’ emails by assuring them that no Tibetan lithium is present in the buses running on London’s streets. Its reply did not, however, indicate any plans by Transport for London to reassess its relationship with BYD, which continues to operate in, and extract lithium from, Tibet, and in June signed a deal to begin lithium extraction at another one of Tibet’s salt lakes.

Take action

Tibetans dispute the right of China to dispose of Tibet’s natural resources and oppose the environmental damage and pollution that result from it. More than 14 major protests have taken place since 2012, a number of which have been broken up by force. 

China's government and Chinese companies, like TWRL, see Tibet's land as a source of profit. Only Tibetans have the right to exploit Tibet's natural resources and only they will do so with respect for the land and environment. Foreign companies should not invest in water bottling unless they know it is being undertaken by Tibetans, onbehalf of Tibetans and Tibet. BlackRock have not so far responded to Free Tibet. Please contact them  and ask them to sell their holding in Tibet Water Resources Ltd.