Beijing Water

Letter from Canadian NGO’s to Finance Minister Paul Martin

May 20, 1999

Hon. Paul Martin, Minister
Department of Finance
140 O’Connor, 21st Floor
L’Espanade-Laurier Building
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G5
FAX: 613-995-5176

Dear Mr. Martin,

This letter is written to register our concern and opposition to the proposed World Bank project entitled “The China Western Poverty Reduction Project” (WPRP), which is scheduled for approval on June 8, 1999. We urge you withhold Canadian support for the project.

We are shocked that the World Bank is considering funding a project with the Chinese government involving the transmigration of ethnic populations into Dulan County, a historically and culturally distinct Tibetan and Mongolian Autonomous area. We object to the WPRP for a number of reasons, but mainly because the project will underwrite the transmigration of a significant population onto the lands of “indigenous” and “ethnic” minorities. It also: will threaten rights granted under international law including the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; may cause serious environmental damage; may be accomplished with prison labour; and will violate World Bank policies on ethnic minorities, environmental assessment, and involuntary resettlement.

First, the project calls for the transmigration of approximately 60,000 individuals onto lands of the Tibetan and Mongolian people, which are designated as “Autonomous”. The area included in this project, Tulan (Dulan) County is in Amdo Province, which is historically a Tibetan area. In order to further consolidate control over Tibetan areas, Chinese governments have undertaken a policy of moving Chinese citizens into these occupied areas. As a result of these population transfers, Tibetans are now a numerican minority in many parts of Tibet and their way of life and culture is coming under increasing attack. The WPRP will therefore assist in this destructive Chinese policy.

Second, the project may threaten rights of Tibetans granted under international law including the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR). This human rights convention, which China recently signed, provides that all peoples have the right to freely determine their cultural development, and their right to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources. The WPRP may therefore contribute to these violations of the CESCR.

Third, there are serious environmental implications that have not been addressed. The project will double the population in a fragile ecological area, and it includes the construction of a 40-meter dam and rural roads. This will increase desertification and will cause other negative environmental consequences. We believe that a project that involves resettlement, a 40-meter dam, and new rural roads among other components requires a full Category A Environmental Impact Assessment. The correct categorisation of this project means that public consultation and paricipation are, and will be, inadequate for such a sensative project that involves ethnic minorities. It also demonstrates the Bank’s poor supervision and leaves us with little hope that such a sensitive project would be properly implemented. Moreover, the unavailability to date of the EIA, even as a Category B project, in the Info Shop is a violation of the Bank’s policy.

Fourth, forced labour may be used. This area (Tulan County) has been a major center of China’s vast laogai (prison labor) network since the 1950’s, and forced labour has been used in other land reclamation projects in this County. International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions, which Canada has signed, prohibit the use of forced or compulsory labour under the circumstances that exist in many Qinghai prison camps. The World Bank is obligated to consider the likelihood that forced labour will be used illegally in any proposed project. Although the Chinese government has given “assurances”, there are are no guarantees that forced labour will not be used on this project. Also, the project does not provide monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance with ILO standards.

Fifth, we are concerned that this project is being rushed for approval without complying with the World Bank’s own policies concerning ethnic minorities, environmental assessment, and involuntary resettlement. The World Bank’s policies require “special action” when ethnic minorities are affected. However, Tibetans and others who live in the region have not been meaningfully involved in the project, and no special actions have been taken to ensure they will “not suffer adverse affects” and that they will “receive culturally compatible social and economic benefits.” The project involves the displacement of ethnic minorities that, according to the World Bank policy, are highly vulnerable to Bank assisted activities and require special attention. We are not convinced that these considerations have been taken into account.

Although the World Bank calls this a “voluntary” resettlement, the Chinese Government is known for its lack of transparency and harsh suppression of dissent, particularly in Tibetan areas where highly sensitive nationality issues are involved. Any expression of opposition to the project will be interpreted by the authorities as a direct challenge to state unity, which is a serious crime in the People’s Republic of China. This means that both the existing and resettled populations may know little about the project, and therefore be unable to either consent or protest, or they may be opposed but are unwilling to protest the project for fear of reprisals.

We therefore urge you to withdraw Canadian support for the China Western Poverty Reduction Project.

Thubten Samdup, President Comité Canada Tibet Committee
National Office

Endorsed by:
Patricia Adams, Executive Director, Probe International
Pamela Foster, Halifax Initiative
Cheuk Kwan, Toronto Association for Democracy in China

Ms. Adele Dion, Director, Human Rights Division, DFAIT
Mr. Gordon Houlden, Director, China Division, DFAIT
Ms. Terrie O’Leary, Executive Director, World Bank
Mr. Bruce Rayfuse, Senior Chief, International Finance Division, Department of Finance


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