By Mark Baber
October 6 – Free Tibet have launched a campaign to press Liverpool FC to terminate a controversial sponsorship deal signed with Chinese water bottling company Tibet Water Resources Limited.
The campaign, which went live yesterday, calls on Liverpool owner, John W. Henry, to end the deal signed this summer with Tibet Water. Free Tibet have drafted an email urging Liverpool FC directors to drop the deal, which has already been sent by more than 700 supporters.
The email urges Liverpool directors to adhere to Liverpool FC’s own human rights statement that “recognises that the respect for human rights is an integral part of its social responsibility,” arguing that “Liverpool FC’s association with TWRL is certainly not in accordance with this commitment and will be tantamount to endorsing the serious, systematic abuses of the Tibetan people by China; something we are sure you do not wish to do.”
According to Free Tibet, Tibet organisations have already written to Liverpool FC’s owner and directors to alert them to the serious situation in Tibet and how their deal with Tibet Water is harmful to both Tibetans and Liverpool FC’s reputation. They have since been joined by consumer group SumOfUs.
Liverpool’s deal with the Chinese company, makes Tibet Water Liverpool FC’s official regional water partner in China and offers the company a range of promotional and marketing rights.
Tibetans in the UK have already been vocal in their opposition to the deal and have lobbied Liverpool fans over the issue at home games.
The campaign has received coverage in the Financial Times, with Free Tibet campaign manager quoted as saying, “When you have a prestigious and well-regarded team like Liverpool with a huge international fan base making deals with companies operating out of Tibet, it lends an air of legitimacy to the occupation and to the abuses of . . . human rights. Liverpool have a progressive fan base and a strong position on human rights but they have to demonstrate that commitment to human rights in the real world.”
Liverpool have yet to respond to the campaigners, but must be aware that Free Tibet organisations are capable of mobilising large amounts of people in support of the Tibetan cause, as was seen most clearly in the large demonstrations against the Beijing Olympic Games.
According to Jones, there is no suggestion that Tibet Water was directly involved in human rights abuses in Tibet, but the company was benefiting from China’s occupation of the region, making it complicit in Chinese government’s abuses in Tibet.
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