Tibet supporters demonstrated outside InterContinental Hotels Group’s Times Square hotel today objecting to the company’s plan to open a resort hotel in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. The protest is part of an international campaign against InterContinental Hotels Group.
Pema Yoko, campaign director for Students for a Free Tibet, the group organizing the protest said that, “As a Tibetan, I am here to tell Larry Light, Chief Brands Officer of InterContintental Hotels Group, that Lhasa under Chinese occupation is essentially a prison. Occupation is no vacation and InterContinental's attempt to brand Lhasa as a luxury tourist destination is a gross insult to the Tibetan people living daily under the shadows of Chinese guns." Yoko said that protests in London and New York are only the beginning, and that, “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 protest took place outside InterContinental’s Times Square hotel where a panel discussion titled ‘The Future of Local’ was taking place. Protesters pointed out the fact that local culture in Tibet is being, “systematically destroyed.” Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, Director of Free Tibet, the London based group coordinating the campaign in the UK says that, “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.”
The Times Square protest follows two recent similar events outside the Intercontinental Park Lane London hotel, where during the hotel group’s annual general meeting, campaigners staged a ‘die-in’, blocking the main entrance.
Originally planned to open in 2012, the 1,100 room Lhasa hotel, slated to be named the Intercontinental Resort Lhasa Paradise, is now scheduled to open in 2014.
The US State Department’s annual country report for 2012 states that, “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”.
China claims that it has invested billions of dollars in the region to improve infrastructure and raise living standards, but Tibetan activists say that those investments have benefited Chinese settlers more than they have Tibetans. Almost 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March, 2011, protesting China’s policies in Tibet which Tibetans say erode their culture, religion, and language.
The international campaign against InterContinental Hotels Group involves more than 30 Tibet groups around the world.