World Bank Executive Directors approved a controversial project to move 58,000 Chinese settlers onto the Tibetan Plateau over objections by the United States and Germany and a handful of abstentions. However, persistent international pressure and an Inspection Panel claim filed by the International Campaign for Tibet resulted in a Board decision to delay funding and implementation of the project until a full project assessment is completed.

“We are clearly disappointed that the World Bank did not vote to reject this deeply flawed project,” said John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, “It should not be in the business of diluting or reconstructing ethnic indigenous populations.”

Over the last several weeks, Bank management has received a geopolitical education on Tibet and China’s ambitions for colonizing the Tibetan Plateau from a range of spokespeople in opposition to this project.

“Other international agencies are unlikely to repeat the Bank’s mistake. We have discredited China’s attempt to legitimize its population transfer scheme and come away from this confrontation with a delay in project implementation and funding — although we are concerned that this process could fall victim to the same political forces,” said Ackerly.

ICT filed a claim with the Bank’s Inspection Panel on June 18, after a series of meetings with Bank management and a barrage of complaints from concerned individuals, organizations, and parliamentarians failed to result in the scrapping of the project. The Inspection Panel claim sets in motion a review of Bank compliance with its own policy directives and could lead to an on-site investigation.

According to Bank officials, its decision to delay the project is Highly unusual, as are guarantees provided by the Chinese government of access to the area by the press and concerned parliamentarians. “We are seeking clarification from the Bank that the project area will be open to experts unaffiliated with the Bank or the Chinese government. It is crucial to the Inspection Panel process that NGOs be given full access to the project area. ICT is especially worried about the extent to which indigenous Tibetans and their lands will be harmed by the project and is prepared to organize a coalition of non-governmental organizations to visit the area,” Ackerly concluded.