Bombardier protest

A Tibetan protester being driven over by a mock Bombardier train.

Montreal – As Bombardier executives and shareholders left their annual general meeting at the Sheraton today, a student hung a Tibetan flag off the hotel as protesters below demanded: “Bombardier: hors du Tibet / out of Tibet”. The action was intended to draw attention to a campaign against Bombardier for its involvement in a highly contentious railway being built through Tibet. Slated to begin test runs in 2006, the railway will facilitate an influx of Chinese settlers and migrants to Tibet, threatening the survival of Tibetan culture.

“The Chinese government is building this railway to strengthen its grip on Tibet, and Bombardier is supplying them with vital components,” said Mike Hudema, the climber and a student from the University of Alberta. “By entering into this contract, Bombardier is helping the Chinese government erase Tibet’s borders and Tibetans’ identity as a distinct people. It is appalling that a Canadian company is participating in this project and I hope what I’ve done today will help prompt Bombardier to withdraw.”

Bombardier announced in February that it would head a consortium with Power Corporation of Canada and China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Industry (Group) Corporation to build 361 cars for the railway. Tibetans fear that the rail line will accelerate the movement of ethnic Chinese into Tibet, as well as facilitate the exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources, enable increased militarization of the Tibetan plateau and cause extensive environmental damage, including pollution in the watersheds of three of Asia’s largest rivers.

“Bombardier exhibits a shameless lack of social responsibility in this project,” said Mary Beth Markey, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet. “They take no responsibility for whether or how Tibetans have been consulted or impacted. By proceeding in these circumstances, Bombardier has made itself a partner in China’s colonization of Tibet.”

Since Bombardier’s announcement, an international coalition of organizations has been appealing to the company to withdraw. The campaign has mobilized opposition to Bombardier’s involvement within the Canadian Parliament and from citizens worldwide. In the past few weeks, more than three thousand faxes to CEO Laurent Beaudoin have flooded into the company’s Montreal headquarters from across Canada and around the world.