Tibetans and their supporters will protest at Bombardier offices in nineteen cities around the world today to demand that the Canadian transportation company immediately end its involvement in a controversial railway being built through Tibet. Bombardier has come under fire from Tibetan rights groups for agreeing to supply rail cars for the Golmud-Lhasa railway; a project the Chinese government has admitted aims to consolidate China’s control over Tibet.
The simultaneous demonstrations are intended to increase pressure on the company prior to Bombardier’s appearance in early December before Canada’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The Committee is concerned that a company receiving Canadian government funding may be contributing to cultural genocide in Tibet.
“As a Tibetan and a Canadian, I am appalled that a Canadian company is assisting in China’s ongoing colonization of Tibet,” said Lhadon Tethong, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “The Chinese government has openly stated that this is a political project and yet Bombardier continues to pretend that it isn’t. Quite simply, in its quest for profit, Bombardier is providing critical assistance in a project that poses a serious threat to the survival of Tibetan people and their culture.”
Slated to begin test runs in 2006, the railway threatens to increase environmental pressure on Tibet’s high-altitude ecosystem, bolster China’s military strength in the region, and facilitate the entry of large numbers of Chinese settlers into Tibetan lands, further marginalizing Tibetans socially, economically, and politically. Many Tibetans see the railway as the final phase in China’s strategy to wipe out Tibetan identity and culture.
The Dalai Lama spoke out against the railway in September while visiting the United States, saying that “cultural genocide is taking place” in Tibet. He continued: “In general, a railway link is very useful in order to develop, but not when politically motivated to bring about demographic change.”
“Bombardier took a stunningly cavalier approach to this project. They did not carry out social or environmental impact assessments, for example, citing the fact that they’re not laying the actual tracks and that their railcars will have no negative implications for Tibet or its people” said Mary Beth Markey, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet. “This project goes against Bombardier’s own Code of Ethics and the company should cancel its involvement immediately.”
Demonstrations are planned at Bombardier’s offices from Edmonton, Canada to Vienna, Austria to Baroda, India and will include political theater, leafleting and pickets. In addition, supporters plan to show their widespread opposition to the railway through protest photos taken around the world and posted on the website: www.bombardieroutoftibet.org.
The Day of Action is organized by a coalition, led by the Canada Tibet Committee, International Campaign for Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet. The groups first expressed their concerns to Bombardier in October 2002. At the time, the company replied that it was “not involved” and had “taken good note of your arguments against this project”. In February of this year however, Bombardier, the world’s biggest maker of train equipment, abruptly announced its intention to build and deliver 361 railcars for the widely criticized project by December of this year.