InterContinental Hotels Group executives mute on human rights and corporate responsibility in Tibet

Friday, 19 July 2013

At a meeting yesterday (18 July) between InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and representatives of the campaign against their planned luxury hotel in Lhasa, Tibet, IHG Executive Vice President George Turner provided no specific or substantive answers to charges and questions regarding their plans.

Representatives of Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet UK showed IHG executives graphic photographs of human rights abuses and provided a list of authoritative reports detailing human rights violations in Tibet (1). The campaigners spelled out their grave concerns about the negative impact of the company’s plans on Tibetans and IHG’s failure to make a proper assessment of the risks posed by the development to its employees, guests and its own reputation.

IHG’s executives did not confirm that comprehensive human rights and social impact assessments had been made before signing the deal to manage the hotel in 2010. They declined a request for the assessments to be made public. Mr Turner, who is also General Counsel and Company Secretary to IHG, provided no substantive answers to any of the questions or concerns put to him and made no commitments regarding further discussions or the provision of further information.

Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet are spearheading an international boycott campaign of InterContinental hotels, launched in May this year. Demonstrations have already taken place outside InterContinental hotels in London and New York, (2, 3), and Free Tibet’s campaign video has been viewed more than 15,000 times (4). The campaigners maintain that the company’s presence and its naming of the hotel the “Lhasa Paradise” is a propaganda gift to a Chinese regime which is responsible for gross human rights abuses throughout Tibet, and severe repression, surveillance and denial of human rights in Lhasa in particular (1). The campaigners also maintain that the hotel and its business facilities may be used by the authorities to discuss and implement further repressive measures.

The hotel is being built and will be owned by the Chinese property company, Exhibition and Travel Group (ETG) (5). It is currently running two years behind schedule and is expected to open in 2014. ETG’s chairman and chief executive are reported to be under investigation for corruption (6). In 2008, many Chinese-owned businesses in Lhasa were damaged during intense protests (7). Most of the hotel’s guests are expected to be Chinese.

Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, who attended the meeting, said:

“InterContinental are out of their depth in Tibet, ill-equipped or unwilling to recognise the problems that arise from selling an illusion of paradise in an occupied country that is a global blackspot for human rights abuse. It is particularly disappointing that a company which apparently puts such a great emphasis on corporate responsibility should make so grave an error of judgment.

“IHG’s willingness to meet with us was a positive sign, and we believe they genuinely wanted to hear our perspective. But there it ended. They simply had no answers to the concerns we laid before them. We are left to conclude that they do not understand the environment in which they plan to operate and that they failed to assess the impact of their hotel on the community on which it is being imposed or the risks to themselves as a business.”

Pema Dolma, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet UK, who attended the meeting, said:

“We are targeting Intercontinental because the ‘Lhasa Paradise’ hotel will do nothing but serve the interests of China's repressive regime. InterContinental’s argument that training programmes and job opportunities will serve the interests of Tibet’s severely repressed people is either deeply naïve or deeply cynical. More than hundred of my countrymen have set themselves on fire for human rights and political freedom - nobody is calling for employment.

“The reality in Tibet is that Tibetans are being tortured and imprisoned for attempting to exercise basic human rights. InterContinental have claimed they would consult the local community but harsh repression in Tibet makes it impossible to conceive that they could have done so effectively or freely in Lhasa. InterContinental needs to pull out of this deal before their brand is permanently associated with China's brutal regime in Tibet.”

-ends-

For further information or comment, contact campaigns and media officer Alistair Currie:

E: alistair@freetibet.org
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes for editors

(1) US Department of State (2013) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: China

(2) http://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/intercontinental-hotels-group-targeted-campaign-and-boycott-tibet-supporters;

http://www.flickr.com/photos/freetibetorg/sets/72157633654927530/

(3) http://freetibet.org/news-media/pr/tibet-demonstration-targets-intercontinental-hotel-times-square

(4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFA8YnWqvbI&feature=youtu.be

(5) Another Sichuan businessman investigated for graft

(6) China Daily 3 June 2010

(7) http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/chaos-in-tibet-protests-in-lhasa-become-violent-a-541561.html

Free Tibet is an international campaigning organisation that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. We campaign for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.

Students for a Free Tibet UK is a campaigning group working in solidarity with the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom. Through grassroots organisation, non-violent direct action and education SFTUK trains youth leaders and take action to promote Tibetans' fundamental rights for political freedom.