As the Government of Canada prepares to ratify a controversial investment agreement with China, Tibetans and their supporters are asking Canada not to allow economic cooperation to trump human rights in its relations with China.
Read their letter here:
April 25, 2013
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
The Government of Canada is currently considering final adoption of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA). As representatives of the Tibetan community and its supporters across Canada, we are writing to express our concern that the treaty will exacerbate the already difficult conditions for Tibetans inside Tibet.
Investment treaties such as the Canada- China FIPPA are designed to protect the investor, but they do nothing to protect those affected by the investment. In Canada, affected communities can avail themselves of the democratic checks and balances that we all enjoy in this country. In Tibet, where human rights violations take place with impunity, the situation is very different.
Please consider the following:
1. Meaningful consultation is impossible in Tibet: Both Canada and China have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which states in article 1.2 that “All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law.” Although Canada and China are both bound by this commitment, Tibetans in Tibet are unable to fully exercise their right. They cannot, and do not, play a participatory role in project level decision-making nor have they been consulted with respect to the Canada-China FIPPA and its implications for regional autonomy as guaranteed in Chinese law.
2. Free expression of opinion is impossible in Tibet: As we write this letter, at least 117 self-immolation protests have been confirmed in Tibet since 2009, including two reported yesterday. Tibetans are resorting to this form of protest because other means of free expression are not available to them. The Canada-China FIPPA requires that the Government of China provide “full protection and security” for Canadian investors in Tibet. In other countries, investors have seized on this provision to claim that host governments should protect foreign-owned projects from leafleting, public demonstration, Internet activism or other peaceful means of expressing opinion. Under the guise of complying with FIPPA obligations, Chinese security forces will likely impose even tighter restrictions on the right of the Tibetan people to freely express dissent including through increased military and police presence.
3. Recourse for affected communities is not available in Tibet: If the Canada-China FIPPA is approved by Parliament, there will be little recourse for Tibetan communities who are removed from their land, whose water is polluted, or whose cultural traditions are threatened because of Canadian investment, even if those outcomes were unintended. The ever-present culture of fear and the threat of intimidation impose a chill-effect deterring individual appeals at the local level while national options out of reach. Access to international protection mechanisms is controlled by the state and there is, for example, no OECD National Contact Point (complaints mechanism) in China. In contrast, investors can simply opt-out of the flawed Chinese legal system and go straight to international arbitration when they perceive that treaty breaches have occurred. In effect this is a double-standard system that is discriminatory in nature.
4. Flags of convenience will render Canada complicit: Last month, the world witnessed the collapse of the Gyama mine east of Lhasa in which 83 miners lost their lives. The mine is a project of China Gold International Resources, a Chinese company registered in Canada with offices in Vancouver. The mine site has long been the subject of local protests airing a number of complaints including illegal water diversion and accusations of corruption and collusion between company representatives and local officials. China Gold has faced no repercussions from its refusal to address such complaints. It remains unaccountable for its actions. In fact, despite being a Chinese state-owned enterprise, China Gold’s Canadian identity means that it will be protected by the FIPPA and will continue to benefit from Government of Canada services even as it acts with impunity in Tibet. We expect that similar situations could come to light as Canadian investment in Tibet grows, and as Chinese companies continue to register as Canadian entities in order to take advantage of FIPPA protections.
The Central Tibetan Administration (government-in-exile) has issued guidelines for ethical investment in Tibet in an effort to protect the Tibetan culture, promote rural development, secure land rights, and encourage Tibetan participation in the local economy. In the absence of guarantees that companies investing in Tibet will comply with these guidelines, it is our view that the Canada-China FIPPA will only entrench the already problematic investment climate in Tibet, and that it should not be ratified by Canada.
Carole Samdup, Executive Director, Canada Tibet Committee
Tashi Wangyal, President, Tibetan Cultural Association of Quebec
Executive Committee, Tibetan Association of Alberta
Urgyen Badheytsang, National Director, Students for Free Tibet Canada,
Tsering Dhundup, Senior Vice President, Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario
Tenzin Gyurme, President, Tibetan Cultural Society of British Columbia