A coalition of Tibetan rights and environmental groups called on BP Amoco Plc to use its power as a shareholder in PetroChina Co. to halt construction of a gas pipeline or sell its stock in the company.
“We urge you to immediately use your influence with PetroChina to stop the construction of the Sebei-Lanzhou pipeline and additional oil and gas activity in Tibet, or to divest” by Jan. 15, the groups said in a letter to Sir John Browne, BP Amoco’s chief executive. “We intend to ensure that you are held accountable for the actions of those entities in which you choose to invest.”
The Tibetan government-in-exile, headed by the Dalai Lama, has already called for an end to the pipeline’s construction, according to the letter. The International Campaign for Tibet, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and more than 40 other groups signed the letter, arguing that the pipeline would “consolidate Chinese control and occupation of Tibert.”
Ian Fowler a spokesman for BP Amoco in New York, said the company is “not a direct participant in the pipeline.” BP Amoco owns 2 percent of the stock in PetroChina’s, the largest Chinese oil company, he said, declining further comment.
BP Amoco is the world’s third-biggest publicly traded oil company and has spent more than $2.5 billion developing oil fields and building chemical plants in China, making it one of the country’s largest investors.
Many labor and human rights groups took credit earlier this year for persuading many pension funds not buy shares during PetroChina’s initial public offering and later urged the funds not to invest in it. They also helped persuade the World Bank to stop a loan for Western China that activists said would have harmed Tibetans by paying for other ethnic groups to move onto Tibetan land.
“Your ability to influence PetroChina on this critical issue is being viewed as a litmus test of your commitment to human rights in China by the Tibet movement,” the letter said, adding that discussions with BP Amoco on this matter began six months ago without the company taking “actions of substance.”
John Gore, a BP vice president for government and public affairs has already told International Campaign for Tibet that the company doesn’t believe that it has “interests in Tibet,” in another letter dated Oct. 23.
“BP will continue to be a constructive voice within China and a force for progress,” Gore wrote. “Without involvement there can be no influence.”
PetroChina said in July it plans to build a cross-country pipeline to transport natural gas from Xinjiang to Shanghai. Completion of the 4,200-kilometer line by 2005 could double PetroChina’s revenue, the company said.