U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz continue to ignore a public campaign launched by the liberal activist group Free Tibet, which is pleading with them to end their investment in Tibet Water Resource, Ltd., a Chinese-owned water bottling company that operates in the most repressed part of Tibet.
The issue could embarrass the secretary and his wife for many years and cloud their work in the name of human rights. So far, both Kerry and his wife have remained mum, refusing to respond to an appeal issued by Free Tibet last May.
Free Tibet told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “Given the positive work he (Kerry) has done for Tibet on the global stage, it would be very disappointing if he wasn’t to acknowledge and take action on this more personal connection.”
In a June 30 letter sent directly to Heinz and obtained by TheDCNF, Free Tibet asked her to end her investment in Tibet Water, emphasizing that her ownership “runs counter” to her stated values.
“We believe this investment runs counter to the values that you and the Heinz family have upheld through your philanthropic work and I urge you to give very strong consideration to ensuring that this investment comes to an end,” wrote Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren.
She told Heinz, Free Tibet hopes “you will consider it consistent with the values your family has long promoted to ensure that the Heinz Family Trust divests its shares in Tibet Water Resources Ltd.”
Free Tibet also appealed to TIAA-CREF, one of the most liberal investment companies in the United States, to end its ownership of 1.4 million shares in Tibet Water. “We note TIAA’s commitment to sustainability and responsible, competitive investment and I hope you will agree that this investment is not consistent with your aims,” Byrne-Rosengren wrote June 8.
The New York-based nonprofit, which represents pension funds and personal investments for teachers, college professors and the artistic community, similarly has not responded to the activist group.
A third U.S. institutional investor, BlackRock, which has close ties to the Obama administration and owns 2.2 million shares in the Chinese company, has ignored similar pleas.
BlackRock, which calls itself the biggest asset management firm in the world, has ignored 1,300 messages that have been sent to the company asking it to end its investment in the Chinese company, according to the group.
The company was used by the Obama administration as its primary outside financial firm to deal with sub-prime mortgages following the 2008 mortgage meltdown and it bailed out government-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In contrast, a Norwegian institutional investment firm has indicated to Free Tibet it will review its investment in the controversial company. Norges Bank Investment, the Norwegian company that owns 46 million shares in the Chinese company, has responded positively to Free Tibet. While noncommittal, the “socially responsible” investment firm has told the activist group that it will review its investment in the bottling company.
Free Tibet is a London-based international organization campaigning for Tibetan self-rule and respect for human rights. Most human rights groups agree that the Chinese government has trampled on the rights of the three million local Tibetans who make up 90 percent of the country’s population.
Tibet Water is headquartered in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), a closed portion of China that was the center of a 2008 Tibetan uprising. Chinese authorities have harshly repressed the Tibetan populace in the years since that uprising. The Chinese company is diverting water from the Himalayas to enter the “luxury” bottle water market in Europe, competing with Evian and Fuji water. The massive water diversion effort for the bottled water also has alarmed environmentalists over destruction of the country’s fragile water resources.
The latest official Department of State human rights report concluded the Chinese government engages in “severe repression” in Tibet, “strictly curtailing the civil rights of China’s Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly, and movement.”
As TheDCNF revealed in an investigative article May 4, Kerry and Heinz are involved with Tibet Water through a family trust called “HFI Imperial” which has investments throughout Asia, including 12 in the People’s Republic of China.
Admiral John Kirby, the State Department’s official spokesman, told TheDCNF at the time that “Secretary Kerry is not a beneficiary of these trusts, and Mrs. Heinz Kerry also exercises no control over the investment decisions made by the independent trustees.”
Leaders of the activist group say its campaign to force divestment in Free Tibet is just beginning and will intensify over time.
“The campaign and the problem is not going away. This is an unwise and unethical investment and now it has been exposed, every day these corporate investors put off getting out of the business they are exposing themselves to more risk,” said Alistair C, a Free Tibet spokesperson, in a statement to TheDCNF.
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