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InterContinental hotels face worldwide demonstrations again as Tibet hotel opens for western guests

Low-key opening of “Lhasa Paradise” fails to deter protests by Tibet supporters.

Tibet campaigners will be staging protests outside Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) hotels across the world next Tuesday, 30 September, to mark the full opening of the company’s controversial Lhasa hotel. The InterContinental Resort Lhasa Paradise opened for events and Chinese guests in August but will only take accommodation bookings from foreign guests from next week. IHG issued no English-language publicity about the opening of the prestigious hotel last month although it was reported in Chinese state media.
 
Campaigners have raised repeated concerns about the hotel’s presence in Lhasa. The hotel’s participation in a government-sponsored “Happy Lhasa” propaganda programme in August has confirmed that IHG will offer implicit and explicit support for Chinese government messaging about Tibet and that it will ignore China’s human rights abuses. The company has also repeatedly declined to detail how the hotel will avoid complicity in any human rights abuses (such as by providing information to security services about Tibetan guests). Global corporate responsibility frameworks, including the United Nations Global Compact to which IHG is a signatory, require companies to take measures to avoid providing “material support” to human rights abuses. IHG has, however, told campaigners that it “will not be drawn into commenting on hypothetical situations.”
 
IHG has warm relations with local government in Lhasa. The hotel was visited during construction by senior city Chinese Communist Party official, Qizhala, and its “soft” opening ceremony in August was attended by Lhasa Vice-Mayor Wang Hui. The company has refused to provide details of its human rights and social impact assessments or to confirm whether it consulted any non-government representatives of the Tibetan community in Lhasa at any stage. According to information provided by the company, it appears that only around half of its staff are “local Tibetan”.
 
Demonstrations are planned in locations around the world, including in the US, Germany, India and Brazil. On Monday 29 September, campaigners will hand a 10,000 signature change.org petition into IHG’s UK headquarters, demanding that the company pull out of Lhasa.
 
In November 2013, protests took place at more than 20 IHG hotels on five continents.
 
Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said: “IHG has sneaked this prestigious development open in a fizzle of publicity. Perhaps the company has finally recognised that running a luxury hotel in one of the world’s human rights blackspots undermines its grandiose claims about global citizenship. Its presence in Lhasa remains evidence of total disregard for its impact on the Tibetan community and for the concerns repeatedly brought to it by Tibet campaigners. IHG’s China hotels are absolutely central to its business strategy and it has clearly calculated that befriending the Chinese regime responsible for gross human rights abuses in Tibet is more in its interests than doing the right thing.
 
Students for a Free Tibet campaigns director Padma Dolma said: “IHG is the only British major company operating in China-occupied Tibet, one of the most repressed areas in this world. If IHG believes that it has successfully avoided the Tibet issue by quietly opening their hotel, it will be disappointed to find its corporate brand tainted with the injustice of China’s exploitation of Tibet. IHG is utterly complicit in China’s ‘second invasion’ of Lhasa as the hotel assists in the process of eroding what is the traditional and religious centre of Tibet to a mere Chinese tourist destination. While Tibetans in Tibet don’t have basic human rights, much of the money that IHG is helping the Chinese government to squeeze out of Lhasa’s tourism will help to finance the occupation of Tibet.”
 
International Tibet Network director Alison Reynolds said: “It has been almost two decades since the Holiday Inn pulled out of Lhasa after facing protests from Tibet Groups; now Holiday Inn’s owners are preparing to go back into Lhasa despite the fact that the fundamental situation on the ground in Tibet has not changed. Tibet remains an illegally occupied country, Tibetans continue to be discriminated against, and human rights abuses remain rampant. Whatever financial or business inducement China has offered IHG, it cannot possibly outweigh the risk to the company’s reputation caused by opening a ‘paradise resort’ in a military-controlled occupied-state.
 
IHG’s Chinese partner in the hotel, Deng Hong of Exhibition & Travel Group, is currently jailed as part of a major corruption investigation in China. Mr Deng faces charges relating to the illegal purchase of land.
 
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