Following the Chinese government’s objection to its labelling of Tibet (amongst others) on a survey drop-down menu under “countries”, the President of Marriott Arne Sorenson, issued a statement on January 11, 2018 in which it said, “…we don’t support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.”

The International Campaign for Tibet is seriously concerned and feels it’s inappropriate for a multinational corporation to have a political position on the future of a people.

The right of people to self-determination is a cardinal principle that is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We have therefore written to Mr. Sorenson expressing our concern and saying that since he has opined on the political future of the Tibetan people, he should also state his position on the universally acknowledged human rights violations suffered by the Tibetan people under the rule of the Chinese government. Failing to do so would mean endorsing the Chinese government political propaganda on Tibet.

Following is the full text of the letter.

Mr. Arne Sorenson
President and CEO
Marriott International, Inc.
10400 Fernwood Road
Bethesda, MD 20817

Dear Mr. Sorenson,

We write to you today with deep concern regarding the statement you issued on January 11, 2018, following an incident with China that included a reference to Tibet.

The International Campaign for Tibet is a membership-based organization, with offices in the United States and Europe, which works to promote human rights and democratic freedom for the Tibetan people.

Our concern is that your statement did not take into consideration the universally acknowledged fundamental rights of individuals and communities to decide their own destiny. In drafting your statement, you did not follow Marriot’s own business philosophy, which states that, “…how we do business is as important as the business we do,” and that your company upholds “a commitment to responsible business, human rights and uncompromising ethical and legal standards in all aspects of our business.”

Although we can appreciate how your business interests may lead you to agree to the Chinese government’s demand, your statement could have said that Marriott does not take any position on how communities should or should not decide their future, but that your removal of Tibet from the survey is a reflection of the de facto situation. There was no need for Marriott to say, “…we don’t support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China and we do not intend in any way to encourage or incite any such people or groups.” You may be aware that the Chinese government also slanders His Holiness the Dalai Lama with these claims. Surely Marriott doesn’t oppose this Nobel Laureate, a man who has been pursuing a nonviolent solution to the Tibet issue for decades!

Notwithstanding Marriott’s position on the historical status of Tibet, you cannot deny observations made by many, including the United States government and the relevant United Nations organs, about the dire lack of human rights in Tibet. China has been continually attempting to silence international public debates on the issue of Tibet, and your statement unfortunately furthers their efforts. As it is, the Chinese propaganda machine is using your statement to undermine the legitimate rights of the Tibetan people, who have spent decades peacefully advocating for an end to Chinese human rights abuses.

It is universal knowledge that multinational corporations have helped to empower communities, specifically in South Africa during the apartheid period, by challenging the positions of governments who fall short on human rights and democratic freedom.

We would therefore like to seek a clarification from Marriott. Please tell us where you stand on the issue of human rights in Tibet, since you have publicly outlined your political position on Tibet in your statement.

I look forward to hearing from you at the earliest possible opportunity.

Matteo Mecacci
International Campaign for Tibet