Bombardier – a Canadian-based manufacturer of airplanes, recreational vehicles and rail transportation equipment – is facing increasing pressure to withdraw a contract to supply railcars for a Chinese railway in Tibet (Essay NI 381). Chinese leaders have acknowledged that the project is politically motivated. Bombardier counters that it is not its responsibility to settle political differences between China and Tibet. However, by partnering with the Chinese Government, the company is facilitating the Chinese colonization of Tibet while increasing tensions.
Bombardier will lead a consortium that includes Power Corporation and the China South Locomotive to supply 361 specially designed railcars for the Chinese Ministry of Railways. Nortel and GE are also supporting the project. Construction of the railway began in 2001 at a cost of $ 3.2 billion, with full operation expected in 2007.
This is not the first time that business ventures have come under attack for having a harmful effect on the Tibetan population. In 2000 the World Bank withdrew a loan to the Chinese Government to facilitate migration of Han Chinese to Tibet. In 1997 Holiday Inn withdrew its luxury hotel in Lhasa after intense criticism. And recently, due to a ‘Hands off Tibet!’ campaign, the Australian goldmining company, Sino Gold, halted its activities in the region.