Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tibetans Protest Coke's Sponsorship

Delaware – Tibetans and supporters protested Coca-Cola's annual shareholder meeting this morning, calling on the company's executives to use their influence to pressure the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to immediately withdraw Tibet from China's Olympic torch relay route.
More than a hundred Tibetans protested outside the meeting with colorful flags and banners reading "No Torch in Tibet," while two Tibetan spokespeople raised concerns inside the meeting directly with company executives and shareholders.
Tibetans and human rights activists fear that allowing the Olympic torch to be run through Tibet will heighten tensions leading to an increased crackdown by Chinese authorities.

"It is unconscionable that Coke would sponsor China's torch relay through Tibet at a time when thousands of Tibetans are being rounded up and imprisoned, monasteries and nunneries are being raided, and people are being shot in the streets for taking part in peaceful protests," said Lhadon Tethong, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet who spoke at today's meeting. "We are calling on Coke executives to do the right thing and avoid the massive public relations disaster that will plague Coke if it is seen to be complicit in China's crackdown on innocent Tibetans."

In March 2006, Coke became a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, making a commitment to "support and respect the protection of international human rights within its sphere of influence" and to ensure that it is not "complicit in human rights abuses." Government officials in Tibet have threatened to respond "harshly and with no leniency" to anyone who tries to disrupt the torch relay when it arrives in Tibet next month.
"My family inside Tibet is living in a constant state of fear, which will only be exacerbated if the Olympic torch is allowed to be paraded through the streets of Lhasa and other Tibetan areas," said Lobsang Choephel, one of the Tibetans who spoke at the shareholders meeting. Lobsang's relative, a 15 year-old middle school student, was shot and killed by Chinese authorities in eastern Tibet one month ago today. "Coke's executives will have blood on their hands if they remain silent on this issue," he added.

The shareholders meeting follows on the heels of massive protests by Tibetans and supporters in London, Paris and San Francisco and on the eve of the arrival of the Olympic torch in New Delhi where thousands are expected to protest along the relay route.

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