UN tells InterContinental Hotels Group to stop stonewalling over Lhasa hotel

Thursday, 10 April 2014

UN corporate responsibility scheme presses multinational after it fails to provide information about human rights policy in Tibet 
The office of the United Nations Global Compact has rejected the decision by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to ignore a request to account for its corporate responsibility practices over its planned hotel in Lhasa, Tibet.
IHG is a signatory (1) to the Global Compact, a scheme designed to foster best practice in corporate responsibility by multinational companies (2). In January, IHG was directed by the Global Compact office to respond to a complaint submitted by Tibet campaigners about its controversial plan to open a luxury hotel in the capital of occupied Tibet. The Global Compact office also asked to be “informed of any actions that [IHG] take[s] to address the situation."
IHG replied to Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet on March 13, two days before the deadline it was given to respond. However, its letter did not address the concerns or answer any of the specific questions raised in the complaint and the Global Compact has now contacted IHG again, requesting it to do so (3).
The original complaint and the questions concerned IHG’s practice in relation to Global Compact principles applying to complicity in human rights abuses, consultation with communities, transparency, protecting the human rights of employees and anti-corruption policies. The last question was asked in the context of the arrest of Chinese businessman Deng Hong, IHG’s business partner in the Lhasa hotel (and other high-profile projects in China) (4).
Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, director of Free Tibet, said:
“IHG has repeatedly refused to answer questions about its corporate responsibility performance with regard to Tibet. It has refused to answer them when we asked them, when an MP has asked them and now when directed by a UN-based corporate responsibility scheme to which it is a signatory. What does the company have to hide? IHG is compounding its unwise decision to open this hotel with this inept, deceptive or deeply cynical response to the ensuing concerns. If this is how little it values corporate citizenship, its brand and its reputation, investors and business partners need to think closely about the risks associated with this company.”
SFT Campaigns and Europe director Pema Dolma said:
“It is suspicious that IHG has persistently avoided transparency about their company policy concerning the safe-guarding of human rights for Tibetans in Lhasa. Tibetans in Tibet are suffering from systematic policies of oppression by the Chinese government as part of China’s illegal occupation. If IHG lowers their human rights standards so they align with China’s, they will effectively have no human rights standards at all. It is shocking to see that a British company could be complicit to China’s crimes in Tibet. IHG’s executives must be held accountable; they have to answer to Tibet campaigners and the UN Global Compact office.”
For more information or comment, contact Free Tibet media officer Alistair Currie
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605
M: +44 (0)780 165 4011
E: Alistair@freetibet.org
1)    IHG Corporate Responsibility page
2)    The Global Compact is a “policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations . . . with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption”. Its board is appointed and chaired by UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-Moon.
3)    Global Compact request sent 9 April 2014. Copies of all correspondence available from Free Tibet.
4)    Correspondence available from Free Tibet
5)    Deng Hong, Exhibition & Travel Group