BP shareholders today voted on a special resolution directing the company to divest its shares of PetroChina, a Chinese state-owned oil company building a pipeline in occupied Tibet.

The resolution states that BP’s investment in PetroChina is contradictory to the company’s policy commitments on human rights and the environment. Despite BP’s attempt to thwart the resolution by invoking an obscure 19th century company legal precedent, the resolution received more than 5″ of the vote.

“We are pleased with this vote. We have achieved a great deal today in our efforts to ensure that BP, its shareholders and the general public realise that the company’s investment in PetroChina has detrimental effects on the Tibetan people.” said Alison Reynolds, Director of Free Tibet Campaign. “However, the Chairman’s response to our resolution failed to address the issues, proving yet another example of spin over substance. We hope that BP will listen in the future to the voice of its shareholders and live up to its stated human rights principles. Today is just one step at the beginning of a campaign that will result in BP’s divestment from PetroChina.”

PetroChina has drawn criticism for its construction of a 950 km gas pipeline across the Amdo region of Tibet. When complete, the pipeline will disrupt the lives of Tibetan nomads, will facilitate the transfer of Chinese military personnel into Tibetan areas, and will allow the Chinese government to profit from resources that are not rightfully theirs.

PetroChina’s parent company CNPC, which profits from PetroChina’s activities, has been implicated in serious human rights abuses in Sudan. Also at issue is PetroChina’s lack of corporate governance protections and the risk that this poses to investors.

At the meeting, representatives from Human Rights organisations and Socially Responsible Investment firms asked questions of BP directors and presented their case for the resolution. Former Tibetan political prisoner Gedun Rinchen, who spent 8 months in solitary confinement for attempting to contact a European human rights fact-finding mission in Tibet, urged divestment, as did Reverend Anthony Poggo, a Sudanese religious leader who has seen the negative impacts of CNPC in Sudan firsthand. Outside, supporters of the resolution held placards that read: “BP divest from PetroChina now” and unfurled a large Tibetan flag.

An exiled Tibetan monk from the Amdo region who was imprisoned for 24 years, issued the following statement from New York: “We urge that BP be on the side of truth. BP must pull back from this bad investment in PetroChina. This investment does not help the Tibetan people. It hurts our culture, our religion, and our way of life. Life in Tibet is a total disaster, and we are in need of help. And if BP cannot help, please at least do not harm us.”