Secretary of State John Kerry continues to hold shares in a luxury Chinese bottling company operating in occupied Tibet amid escalating human rights protests, including a gruesome self-immolation by a former Tibetan monk, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has learned.
Kerry and the U.S. State Department said nothing about the Dec. 8 suicide by Tashi Rabten, a 30-year old former monk who set himself on fire in Machu County in Eastern Tibet to protest Chinese occupation of the country, according to department spokeswoman Lauren Hickey.
Rabten was seen running down a roadway, his body engulfed in flames as a passerby chanted prayers. He collapsed on a sidewalk as his skin burned away, revealing charred skeletal remains. Rabten left behind a statement, saying, “we Tibetans are not scared of death. I was left with the only choice of self-immolation to war people.”
It was the second immolation of 2016. Tsering Kyi, a 20-year old student set herself on fire in March in the same county to protest the Chinese oppression of Tibetans in the country.
Since the Obama administration’s 2009 beginning, 145 Tibetans have burned themselves to death to protest the Chinese occupation, according to Free Tibet, an international advocacy group.
Kerry’s silence on Tibet is in marked contrast to his high-profile verbal assault on Israel Wednesday for building settlements in the West Bank, saying continued settlements are leading toward “perpetual occupation.”
But there are some Tibetan matters that interest Kerry. Kerry and his billionaire wife Teresa Heinz decided in 2014 to invest through a family trust up to $15,000 in Tibet Water, Ltd., a premium bottled water company that sells Tibetan mountain water to Chinese elites and wealthy European customers, according to federal financial disclosure forms.
Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren sent a letter in March 2016 to Kerry imploring him and his wife to divest themselves of their “inappropriate” stock in the Chinese company.
“On behalf of Free Tibet and our supporters, I urge you to ensure that the Heinz Family Trust divests its shares in Tibet Water Resources Ltd,” Byrne-Rosengren told Kerry.
Kerry never replied to Free Tibet, while a State Department spokesman refused to say if the Kerrys got rid of the investment. stock. Previously, a department spokesman told TheDCNF that Kerry does not control the trust, though he conceded Kerry’s wife benefits from income it generates.
Kerry and his wife also have more than $1 million invested in Blackstone Capital Partners, a private equity arm of the Blackstone Group. Blackstone Fund Advisors, a part of the same company is one of the largest single institutional investors in Tibet Water. The investment firm reportedly invested $11.2 million in Tibet Water, according to the Financial Times.
Although Free Tibet has generated more than 1,300 letters to Blackstone urging it to divest the stock, the company has refused to respond.
The 2015 State Department report for Tibet lists numerous human rights violations, concluding that the Chinese government “engaged in the severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage by, among other means, strictly curtailing the civil rights of China’s Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly, and movement.”
The State Department noted that Chinese Han nationals run and operate nearly the entire business sector in Tibet. That Chinese ownership extends to Tibet Water.
The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in nearby India, continues to argue for Tibetan freedom, but has been largely ignored by the international community.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his efforts to end the Chinese domination of his country. The Dalai Lama resigned in 2011 as the political head of the opposition, but continues to be the spiritual leader for Tibetan Buddhists who continue to protest Chinese oppression.
Kerry and his wife’s investments in Tibet are part of a complicated series of trusts that invest hundreds of millions of dollars in ventures in the United States and abroad.
Teresa Heinz is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion. She inherited her fortune from her first husband, Republican Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz, III after he died in a helicopter crash in 1991.
In 2014, after becoming Secretary of State, Kerry and his wife decided to establish a new trust called “HFI Imperial.”
The Imperial trust invested in companies operating in Asia, including state-run companies in the People’s Republic of China.
But the most troubling investment appears to be Tibet Water. Environmentalists decry the current diversion of 153,000 bottled tons of the country’s pure glacial water for sale to Chinese elites and upscale Europeans. By 2025 the company is projected to sell 10 million tons of Tibetan bottled water.
But the main complaint is that the company is owned and operated by Chinese Han who are exploiting the country’s natural resources for China at the expense of native Tibetans.
After Rabten’s self-immolation, Byrne-Rosengren said China “should remove its suffocating restrictions on Tibet, end the human rights violations it carries out daily and put an end to the systematic eradication of Tibet’s culture.”
“The international community must also join this effort by calling on China to halt these abuses. World leaders cannot simply stand by while more Tibetan lives are lost,” Byrne-Rosengren said.
However, it appears Secretary Kerry will remain largely silent about the Tibetan until he departs office on January 20.
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