A diverse and powerful coalition of Tibetan, human rights, national security, and environmental groups urgently called on BP, the oil giant, to cancel a controversial natural gas pipeline currently under construction in Tibet. BP is both the largest foreign shareholder in PetroChina, which is the company building the pipeline, and the top investor in the Chinese oil industry. The groups urged BP to either use its influence immediately, or divest itself of PetroChina stock.

The campaign comes on the heels of the Tibet movement’s successful opposition to a proposed World Bank loan, and a coalition campaign opposing the IPO of PetroChina, which cost the Chinese government controlled entity up to $7 billion.

In a sharply worded letter to BP Chief Executive Sir John Browne, 54 organizations from 16 countries demanded that BP immediately use their influence with PetroChina to stop planned oil and gas projects in Tibet, or divest themselves of the Chinese oil company. Signatories to the letter included Tibet support groups from around the world, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, the U.S. Business and Industry Council, the Uyghur Human Rights Coalition, and Trillium Asset Management. The groups, some of whom have been engaged in an unproductive dialogue with BP over the last six months, gave BP until January 15th to produce results before facing a public divestment campaign.

The Tibetan Government-In-Exile, headed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has already called on BP to withdraw their investments from PetroChina. “These investments [in oil and gas projects] are clearly harmful to Tibetans and will be actively opposed,”said the statement delivered on September 22, 2000.

“As the top investor in PetroChina, BP is profiting from China’s pillaging of Tibet’s natural resources and the consolidation of Chinese control in the region.”said John Ackerly, the President of the International Campaign for Tibet. “BP is conducting a massive PR campaign holding itself out as a good corporate citizen, but Tibetans and Muslim Uyghurs in China are getting a different message. Put simply, BP has yet to explain how it can partner with China in exploiting oil from occupied lands while respecting human rights”.

At the same time, alsmost one hundred top shareholders of PetroChina were sent similar letters outlining grave concerns about the Chinese state controlled entity. The shareholders received warnings from the AFL-CIO, the William J. Casey Institute, and Friends of the Earth, while calls for divestment came from the American Anti-Slavery Group, the U.S. Business and Industrial Council, Freedom House, and Tibetan groups. Last spring, this powerful coalition of labor, human rights, environmental, national security, and religious freedom advocates came together to oppose the PetroChina IPO. As a result, PetroChina only managed to raise $3 billion, far short of the $7-10 billion for which the underwriters had originally hoped.

NOTE: Copies of the letter to Sir John and sample letters to PetroChina investors are available below.

China’s Great Leap West: Tibet Information Network Report