BP Caught in Tibet Crossfire
[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 00/10/02; October 2, 2000.]
Luke Harding in New Delhi; The Guardian
Monday October 2, 2000
A part-built gas pipeline in Tibet threatens to become a major embarrassment for several multinational oil companies after the Dalai Lama urged them to withdraw their support for Chinese firms involved in the huge project.
The Tibetan government in exile has called for an immediate halt to the construction of several oil and gas schemes that are being backed by multinationals such as BP Amoco, Enron and Agip. It argues that the pipeline is of no benefit to the Tibetan people and will merely accelerate the influx of Chinese migrants into Tibet.
The exiled administration, based in India and headed by the Dalai Lama, urged the corporations last week to withdraw their investments from "Chinese entities engaged in these activities". They include China's two largest oil firms, PetroChina and Sinopec.
This is the first time that the government in exile has taken a position on oil and gas development in Tibet, which was invaded by the Chinese in 1950.
"Our position with respect to development is clear: we support projects which benefit the Tibetan people and oppose those which cause harm," Kalon TC Tethong, minister for international relations in the Dalai Lama's government, said. "This project represents a significant escalation of China's exploitation of oil and gas on the Tibetan plateau and will accelerate China's policy of transferring Chinese settlers into Tibetan areas."
The controversial 953km (592 mile) Sebei-Lanzhou pipeline is part of China's "western development plan". After pressure from human rights groups and Tibetan supporters worldwide, BP Amoco decided not to participate in a joint venture around the pipeline. But last month it announced a £400m investment in Sinopec. The BP Amoco is now the largest foreign oil investor in China, having pumped in $2.5bn (£1.7bn).
Last night a BP spokesman said the company had no direct interests in Tibet. But he added: "China is a very fast-growing market - one of the biggest in the world and an area where we wish to be a significant player."
At a press conference in New Delhi on Friday, Mr Tethong said that China's "hardline policy" on Tibet threatened the "total destruction of an entire civilisation".
Beijing's assumption that the issue of Tibet would resolve itself after the Dalai Lama's death was "fatally flawed", he added.
The World Bank was forced recently to scrap a contentious $160m (£109m) loan to China which would have been used to resettle some 58,000 Chinese farmers in Qinghai province.
Pro-Tibet campaigners argued that the loan would have had a devastating impact on the region's remaining 6m Tibetans, and the prospects for the survival of their ancient culture and Buddhist religion.
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