'Chinese soldiers' applaud BP's support of exploitation of Tibet

Thursday, 18 April 2002

'Chinese soldiers' applaud BP's support for exploitation of Tibet while chairman stonewalls Tibetans at company AGM
(LONDON) A dozen shareholders and proxies attended BP's AGM today dressed as soldiers from China's People's Liberation Army, in order to highlight how the company's continued investment in PetroChina makes BP complicit in abusive policies in Chinese occupied Tibet. The 'soldiers' gave standing ovations to Chief Executive Lord Brown's references to BP's business in China; demonstrating the appreciation that the Chinese Government no doubt feels for the support BP continues to give to the exploitation of Tibet's natural resources.

"BP Chairman Peter Sutherland's response to our questions on Tibet was defensive and fantastical to say the least," said Lhadon Tethong of Students of a Free Tibet. "BP claims not to be involved with PetroChina's projects in Tibet yet it is the largest foreign shareholder of PetroChina and lines its pockets from those same operations," she added.

BP is the largest foreign shareholder in PetroChina. PetroChina's operations in Tibet and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) are part of China's politically charged 'Western Development Plan', which is designed to consolidate control of these areas and eradicate nationalism and the cultural identity of Tibetans and Uyghurs. In a letter sent to BP last week (see www.freetibet.org/press/bplet0804.htm ) members of a Tibet campaign coalition reiterated their fundamental objection to BP's ongoing involvement with PetroChina and criticised BP's stonewalling of the legitimate concerns of human rights groups and shareholders over PetroChina's operations and the Sebei-Lanzhou pipeline in Tibet in particular.

A Special Resolution at last year's AGM, calling on BP to divest from PetroChina, received the backing of shareholders representing 627.5 million shares, with a market value of £3.8 billion. In the year since the AGM, BP appears to have simply disregarded these shareholders' concerns with no tangible efforts made on behalf of its commitment to human rights. Shareholders, Tibet supporters, Tibetans and Uyghurs alike, were led to believe that BP was committed to carrying out projects in accordance with the company's, and ultimately the shareholders', publicly noted standards on environmental protection and human rights. Without evidence of positive change, campaigners question how BP is able to espouse these values whilst at the same time maintaining a very active and ongoing involvement with PetroChina.

"Despite promises to the contrary, BP has now chosen to brush aside legitimate concerns on its PetroChina investment," said Alison Reynolds of Free Tibet Campaign. "We conclude that BP never intended to keep its commitment to shareholders, to the detriment of its reputation as well as to the people of Tibet."

For more information, including photographs of the 'soldiers' outside the BP AGM contact:
Alison Reynolds: 07711 843884
Lhadon Tethong: 07766 051184
Free Tibet Campaign office: 020 7833 9958

Post AGM press briefing:
Immediately after the conclusion of the AGM (approx 1pm), campaigners will be available in Coffee Bar 51, Level 1 (Ground floor) of the Royal Festival Hall.

1. BP rescued PetroChina's floundering Initial Public Offering in March 2000 with a purchase of a fifth of the available shares, at a cost to the company of $578 million. Tibet campaigners' are in opposition to this investment in PetroChina and to the Sebei Lanzhou pipeline because gas, oil and pipeline projects in Tibet will:

Consolidate Chinese control and occupation of Tibet as well as increase the Chinese Government's justification for maintaining control.
Facilitate the transfer of Chinese settlers or workers to Tibetan areas, causing erosion of Tibetan culture, language, traditions and religion.
Deplete natural resources without consultation with, and deriving little or no benefit to the Tibetan people.
Negatively affect the sustainability of Tibet's ecosystems.
Employ a sizeable and disproportionate number of Chinese and other non-Tibetans.
Employ only a few Tibetans in unskilled labour positions.

Very similar concerns exist over the imminent West-East pipeline from East Turkestan (Xinjiang) to Shanghai. Although BP backed out of the bidding process to be a partner in this massive project, as PetroChina's largest foreign shareholder, it remains uniquely involved in the company's activities.

2. Members of the campaign coalition are:
Free Tibet Campaign: http://www.freetibet.org
International Campaign for Tibet: http://www.savetibet.org
The Milarepa Fund: http://www.milarepa.org
Students for a Free Tibet: http://www.tibet.org
US Tibet Committee: http://www.ustibet.org

Press Advisory, 16 April 2002

Letter to BP, 8 April 2002

Background / Campaign Brief

Shareholders' Resolution 2001