Tibet demonstration targets InterContinental hotel in Times Square
Tibet campaign goes international as IHG-sponsored event takes place in NYC
To mark Intercontinental Hotels Group’s “Future of Local” event in their Times Square hotel in New York yesterday (20 June), attendees and hotel guests were greeted by protesters objecting to the company’s plan to open a luxury resort in the capital of occupied Tibet (photos,1). The protest, organised by New York-based Students for a Free Tibet, was part of an international campaign against Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) (2).
Under occupation by China since 1950, Tibet’s heritage, language and culture has been subjected to severe repression for decades. A report supporting the campaign cites evidence that the hotel will help sustain the Chinese occupation and bring further harm to Tibetans and Tibetan culture (3).
The Times Square protesters distributed leaflets carrying graphic images of human rights abuses in Tibet, following the pattern of two recent similar events outside the Intercontinental Park Lane hotel in London, organised by Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet UK. At UK-based IHG’s Annual General Meeting at the Park Lane hotel in May, campaigners staged a ‘die-in’, blocking the main entrance (4).
Originally planned to open in 2012, the 1,100 room Lhasa hotel is now scheduled to open in 2014. Called the Intercontinental Resort Lhasa Paradise, the hotel is being built by Sichuan-based Exhibition and Travel Group (ETG) (5). ETG’s chairman Deng Hong has close links to the Chinese regime and, according to Chinese media, both he and ETG’s chief executive are being investigated for corruption (6). ETG is also involved in a controversial development in the Federated States of Micronesia (7).
IHG’s chief brands officer, Larry Light, was a panel member for the IHG-sponsored “Future of Local” discussion. The event is part of a series of online and offline discussions intended to address the effects of globalisation and the relationship between multinational companies and local communities and cultures (8). The event’s Twitter feed (#futureoflocal) was also used by protesters to highlight IHG’s involvement in China.
According to a US State Department report released this year, “Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage” is subject to “severe repression” and “serious human rights abuses included extrajudicial killings, torture [and] arbitrary arrests” (9). Almost 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese regime since March 2011 (10). A Western news reporter who recently secretly filmed in Lhasa described it as “Orwellian” (11).
Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, Director of Free Tibet, said:
“IHG’s involvement in ‘The Future of Local’ is a cynical attempt to present an image of a responsible multinational corporation. The reality is that the company is cosying up to a repressive regime and trading on its propaganda. While the panellists at this discussion discuss the ‘future of local’, local culture in Tibet is being systematically destroyed. Tibetans who try to defend it pay with their liberty and lives.
“As long as Western multinationals collude with the Chinese regime in portraying Lhasa as a happy and peaceful place, the ‘future of local’ in Tibet is bleak. IHG must pull out of Tibet.”
Pema Yoko, Students for a Free Tibet's Campaigns Director, said:
“As a Tibetan, I am here to tell Larry Light, Chief Brands Officer of InterContintental Hotel Group that Lhasa under Chinese occupation is the opposite of paradise. Occupation is no vacation and Intercontinental's attempt to brand Lhasa as a luxury tourist destination is a gross insult to the Tibetan people. Right now, as historic parts of Lhasa are being destroyed, InterContinental's executives are trying to sell China's lies about Tibet. London and New York are only the beginning: Tibetans and people of conscience around the world will continue to escalate pressure on Intercontinental until it cancels its plan for the Lhasa hotel.”
The international boycott campaign against InterContinental Hotels Group is supported by the International Tibet Network and more than 30 Tibet groups worldwide. It is being spearheaded by Free Tibet, a UK-based international campaign group that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future, for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.
Students for a Free Tibet is a global campaigning group working in solidarity with the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom. Through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action, SFT campaigns for Tibetans’ fundamental right to political freedom and trains youth leaders in the worldwide movement for social justice.
(6) Another Sichuan businessman investigated for graft, Caixin 12 April 2013 http://english.caixin.com/2013-04-12/100513654.html
(9) US Department of State (2013) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: China http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?dynamic_load_id=204195&year=2012#wrapper
(10) Full list of self-immolations http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/full-list-self-immolations-tibet
(11) France 24, Seven days in Tibet, 31 May 2013 http://www.france24.com/en/20130531-reporters-seven-days-in-tibet-china-lhassa-buddhist-monks-self-immolations-cultural-assimilation-cyril-payen
For further information contact:
UK: Free Tibet campaigns and media officer Alistair Currie
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605
US: Students for a Free Tibet International Director Kate Woznow
T: +1 917 601 0069