Montreal - Both inside and outside of the annual general meeting of Power Corporation of Canada today, Tibetans and their supporters will demonstrate their concerns over the involvement of Power in the Gormo-Lhasa railway project. Power is a partner in a joint venture company with Bombardier and the Government of China that will supply rail cars for the controversial railway. Tibetans fear that this first railway to link mainland China to occupied Tibet represents the final phase of the cultural genocide of the Tibetan people.
"It is widely accepted that Tibetans have suffered and continue to face systematic human rights violations. Based on this fact and in accordance with leading standards of corporate social responsibility, Power must act responsibly and take concrete actions to address the legitimate concerns of the Tibetan people", says Tenzin Dargyal, National Coordinator of the Canada-Tibet Committee. "Otherwise it is unethical to be involved in this controversial railway project in Tibet without appropriately addressing whether or not Power is contributing to the worsening of the livelihood of the Tibetan people. Inaction amounts to silent complicity."
Despite the valid concerns raised to date, neither Power nor Bombardier have conducted human rights, environmental or socio-cultural impact assessments as promoted by international standards of corporate social responsibility. The fears of the railway are proving to be justified before the train is even fully operational. Rural Tibetan villages have been demolished and relocated. Chinese authorities have confiscated land from Tibetans without adequate compensation. In February Chinese scientists admitted that thawing permafrost on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau could threaten the safe operation of the railroad in as little as ten years. Despite these warnings of the possible limited timeline for the railway project, the Chinese media has reported major commemorations of the opening of the railway for July 1st, 2006. The railway is described as the 'centerpiece' of China's Western development campaign.
Shareholders of Power will have the opportunity to vote in support of a resolution tabled by the Ethical Funds Company that calls upon the company to prepare a "report to shareholders by November 2006, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, describing Power corporation's policies and management practices that promote and protect human rights in China and Tibet." The board and management of Power, which includes founding and influential board members of the Canada China Business Council, have recommended to shareholders to vote against this resolution. Despite established standards and best practices by other comparable corporations, Power said it "does not believe it could successfully elaborate a meaningful human rights policy."
"Power arguably enjoys the most privileged and successful relations with China by any Canadian entity. With China's poor record on human rights, businesses like Power inherit responsibility of actively promoting and respecting human rights for Tibetans and Chinese", said Mr. Dargyal.
An international coalition of Tibet Support Groups led by the Canada Tibet Committee, International Campaign for Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet, first expressed their concerns to Power in March 2005. Power responded in September 2005 by saying their activities "conform with our (Canadian) law, and that of China, and that they are compatible with Canadian foreign policy."