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Dalai Lama's Envoy Praises Gold Foeld for its Ethical Stance

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2004/02/09; February 9, 2004.]

By Sherilee Bridge. (February 8)
The Sunday Independent

JOHANNESBURG - Tibetan human rights and environmental activists, encouraged by Gold fields' stand on investment in Tibet, this week called on other South African companies to follow suit.

Lodhi Gyari Rinpoche, a special envoy of the Dalai Lama and executive chairman of the board of directors of the International Campaign for Tibet, commended Gold Fields for its ethical and environmental policies after a meetinth the company on Friday.

'Gold Fields seems to be very socially responsible. The meeting gave us the opportunity to share our concerns and to better understand its global standards, which is very encouraging', said Gyari Rinpoche.

Gyari Rinpoche was attending the World Conference on Democracy in Durban.

He has led several Tibetan delegations to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders in the quest to secure a brighter future for Tibetans.

Tibet was invaded by China in 1949 and the territory has been occupied since.

The Chinese government, under the guise of its Western Development Plan, has been encouraging foreign investment in Tibet, often in partnership with state-owned companies.

'We are not against investment in Tibet', said Gyari Rinpoche,' And we are not at all opposed to the economic development of Tibet, which is way behind that of China. What we vigorously oppose is some of these projects - whether initiated by the Chinese government or in collaboration with foreign investors - that further marginalize our people', he said.

Activists for a free Tibet earlier this month praised Sino Gold, an Australian mining junior, in which Gold Fields holds 10 percent, for its decision to halt operations at Jinkang.

Sino Gold had been carrying out exploratory drilling at Jinkang in the Tibetan area of Amdo on the border of the Tibetan Autonomous Region with a view to developing a gold mine at the site.

If the mine had gone ahead, Sino Gold would have been the first foreign company to mine in Tibet since its invasion. This could create a 'precedent for other foreign companies to exploit non-renewable resources with negligible benefit to Tibetans', according to an international' Hands Off Tibet' campaign.

According to Australia's Tibet Council, this posed an ethical dilemma for Sino Gold and its shareholders, who would be complicit in supporting the human rights abuses that have characterized the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Besides Gold Fields, Sino's other major shareholders include Standard Bank London, the World Bank's international Finance Corporation, Australia's Colonial First State, and Refco Group of the US.

Taking up the fight closer to home, the S.A. Friends of Tibet said it was aware of other South African companies moving into the People's Republic of China and whose investment might have negative consequences on Tibet.

Donovan Roebert, the co-ordinator of S.A. Friends of Tibet, urged those companies to take Gold Fields' lead and establish a dialogue with the Tibetan Government in Exile.

'We want corporate South Africa to know that there is a watchdog', Roebert said.

The Tibetan Government in Exile have investment guidelines that promote not just legitimate and ethical dealings but good business practise.

Describing the situation as 'delicate', Gyari Rinpoche said he believed business had an important role to play in finding a solution.

'We are asking them (foreign investors in Tibet) not to be part of the problem but part of a solution', Gyari Rinpoche said.

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