Intercontinental backs occupied hotel on Twitter

15th November 2012

Defending the indefensible in 140 characters

The UK company planning to operate a 2,000 room luxury hotel in Lhasa has taken to social media to defend its development.

Free Tibet has been trying for some time to persuade Intercontinental Hotels (IHG) not to go ahead with the ‘Resort Lhasa Paradise’.

Occupation is no holiday

Lhasa is an occupied city where the presence of Chinese military is overwhelming. Two Tibetan men set themselves on fire in Lhasa this year in protest against China’s ongoing repressive regime.

This doesn’t seem to bother Intercontinental who are cheerily rubber-stamping a deal that sends a signal to the world that everything is normal.

InterContinental’s weak defence

A few weeks ago, we took to Twitter to ask people to send an email to Intercontinental CEO Richard Solomons.

Unexpectedly, @IHG_CR, the hotel’s corporate responsibility feed, responded:

“Hotels create jobs & income from tourism improving Tibetans’ living standards...We are in the process of establishing an IHG Academy in Lhasa to train local people in hospitality.”

What’s wrong with that?

Twitter response 5.jpgProjects like this can only be given the green light by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Contracts are commonly awarded to state-owned companies and party loyalists. Any income goes straight into Chinese pockets.

It is likely that work contracts and the better paid jobs will only be awarded to those who show allegiance to the CCP.

Claims of foreign tourists improving living standards of Tibetans are a fallacy. China repeatedly closes Tibet to tourists from the outside world, usually with little or no notice.

Tibetan concerns

Tibetans have expressed concerns that hotel developments are an incentive for Chinese graduates to move to Tibet. Han Chinese are given priority for jobs, with Mandarin replacing Tibetan as the preferred language of Chinese-run enterprises inside Tibet.

Twitter response 4.jpgWhen we asked if attendees of the IHG academy would have the option to receive training in the native Tibetan language the company replied “We will update you through formal channels as we have news.” We won’t hold our breath.

In the meantime, the job advertisement for the General Manager position in the Lhasa hotel states that ‘local Chinese or Hong Kongese are preferred’

The @IHG_CR feed stresses “collaboration and empowerment” and asks for people to “help us make a difference!”

You can help them to do just that. Email CEO Richard Solomons and ask that his company withdraws from Lhasa. Perhaps then you could send a tweet to @IHG_CR to let them know too.