Free Tibet Campaign welcomes Minister's 'concern' over BP investment

Tuesday, 6 February 2001

Free Tibet Campaign is encouraged by the concern expressed by Trade Minister Richard Caborn over PetroChina's activities in Tibet, but repeated its call for BP to withdraw from its share holding in the company. Reuters reported that Mr Caborn had told press, speaking about a shareholder resolution calling for divestment and a day of protest, that BP and PetroChina could face a public relations disaster if the protest galvanised enough support to pass the resolution. Mr Caborn discussed with the Chinese Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng the need for thorough social and environmental assessments of projects such as those being carried out by PetroChina. He said that the Chinese were willing to compromise on these issues, but not on the "political issues."

"The Minister's concern proves that BP's investment in PetroChina is a political issue, although we are disappointed that Mr Caborn avoided mention of Tibet's political status." said Alison Reynolds, Director of Free Tibet Campaign. However, the experience of the World Bank last year shows us just how difficult it is to carry out appropriate social assessments in Tibet. BP should recognise that this investment is against the company's long term interest, contradicting as it does their commitments to human rights and the environment, and withdraw" she added.

Notes: BP currently owns a US$578 million stake in PetroChina, which recently began construction of a gas pipeline in the Amdo region of Tibet. Human rights groups are concerned that the pipeline will disrupt the traditional lifestyle of Tibetan and Mongolian nomads, will increase militarisation in an already volatile area, will facilitate the transfer of Chinese citizens into Tibetan areas, and will allow the Chinese government to profit from resources that are not rightfully theirs. After a year of dialogue with the company, 54 organisations from 16 countries in December urged BP either to use its influence immediately to halt the pipeline, or divest from PetroChina by 15th January 2001. BP refused.

In April 2000, the independent Inspection Panel of the World Bank, looking into the Qinghai component of the controversial China Western Poverty Reduction Project, reported a "climate of fear" in Dulan county, Amdo (Qinghai), the location of a proposed resettlement of more than 60,000 farmers. Consultation of affected people had been badly managed, with many Tibetan and Mongolian farmers interviewed in the presence of a Chinese official.

For more information contact: Alison Reynolds, Director 020 7833 9958 Mobile 07711 843884