Monday, June 12, 2000: As 3000 delegates representing 53 countries and 89% of global oil production begin deliberations today in Calgary, Canadian Tibetans and their supporters are raising concerns about possible Canadian complicity in Chinese exploitation of Tibetan oil reserves.
The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which has offices in Calgary and is a member of the Canada China Business Council, is already notorious for its partnership with Talisman in Sudan. The CNPC has now begun construction on a controversial gas pipeline originating in Tibet's Tsaidam Basin. The pipeline will take gas 2500 km. from Sebei to Lanzhou. As a state-owned monopoly, the CNPC holds exclusive rights to all of Tibet's oil and gas, in what exiled Tibetans say amounts to appropriation of their natural heritage.
The Tsaidam Basin area, indigenous to Tibetan and Mongolian nomads, is close to the infamous World Bank project site where 60,000 Chinese farmers could be resettled under the guise of poverty alleviation. Widely condemned by international NGOs concerned about negative environmental and social impact, the project was put on hold while a high-level "inspection panel" visited the site. The inspection panel, headed by Canadian Tim Reid, has submitted its report to Bank officials but has not released it publicly.
The CNPC has received an astounding $29 million dollars in public funds from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for provision of "an ongoing petroleum sector review and assessment aimed at enhancing CIDA's long term planning and programming capability in China", among other things. The project has enabled Chinese experts to come to Canada for training in oil and gas technology, much of which will presumably be put to use in the Tsaidam Basin project. CNPC is already engaged in another pipeline construction project in occupied territory - East Turkestan (Xinjiang) bordering Tibet to the northwest. The CNPC has received an additional $7.55 million dollars in assistance from CIDA specifically for the 4200 km. Xinjiang pipeline.
Tibetans worry that China will seek to solve its own energy problems by strippingTibet of its oil and gas reserves. Moreover, they fear that large development projects such as this one, will encourage the ongoing transfer of Chinese population from China into Tibet, further devasting Tibet's fragile ecology and threatening its unique cultural heritage.
"Western corporations and governments have a responsibility to protect the rights of vulnerable peoples in the areas where they operate" said Thubten Samdup, President of the Canada Tibet Committee. "CIDA has human rights, sustainable development, democracy and good governance among its strategic objectives. When it contributes to projects which could violate these principles - by provision of public funds, technical expertise or training - it not only threatens the credibility of its other projects, but it also runs the risk of complicity with authoritarian governments."
CNPC's effort to launch its public entity, Petro China, on the New York Stock Exchange last month resulted in failure largely due to pressure from human rights and environmental groups. Originally hoping for $10 billion US from the initial public offering, PetroChina was able to raise only $2.89 billion.
The Tsaidam Basin has oil reserves of 42 billion tons and natural gas reserves of 1,500 billion cubic meters in 22 deposits. Tsaidam's estimated reserves could supply China's current gas needs for up to seven years.
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For more information: Thubten Samdup, 514-867-6770