Harvard Divests from PetroChina, Sudan Genocide(April 2005)

Harvard Divests from PetroChina, Sudan Genocide

By David Kute and Leeshai Lemish

The Epoch Times

April 15, 2005

BOSTON- Harvard University announced that it will divest funds invested in PetroChina, an oil company said to be linked to genocide in Darfur.

“Divestment is not a step that Harvard takes lightly,” said Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers in a press release.

“But I believe there is a compelling case for action in these special circumstances, in light of the terrible situation still unfolding in Darfur and the leading role played by PetroChina’s parent company in the Sudanese oil industry, which is so important to the Sudanese regime.”

The Harvard Crimson reported that the university held 72,000 shares in PetroChina last October, prompting members of the Harvard community to wage a campaign to get the university to divest, included in the campaign was a petition signed by over 600 students and faculty, requesting Harvard divest their funds.

In a letter circulated to the entire student body, Brandon Terry, President Emeritus of the Black Man’s Forum, and Matthew Mahan, President Emeritus of the Harvard Undergraduate Council had asked students to withhold their money until Harvard divests the nearly $4 million dollars in shares in PetroChina.

“We believe that there is a clear moral imperative to withhold your donation until Harvard divests from PetroChina and any other companies as of yet undisclosed that are financially enabling genocide by operating in Sudan,” they write in the letter.

PetroChina is a division of the China National Petroleum Corporation, a Chinese state-owned company that is one of the key players in the Sudanese oil industry. According to Pitzer College’s Sudanese Professor Lako Tongun, China has been selling weapons to the genocidal Sudanese government, and China’s veto power kept the United Nations from issuing a strong resolution on the crisis.

A campaign waged by the Sudanese government and Arab militiamen in the western region of Darfur has claimed an estimated 400,000 lives and displaced over 2 million people. Rights groups and the US administration have called the killing genocide.

The April 4 decision to divest in PetroChina came after Summers requested through the University’s Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility(ACSR) review the issue.

A subcommittee of the ACSR heard from students advocating divestment and prepared a report suggesting the university divest. The recommendation to divest was then passed on to the full ASCR, then the CCSR, and finally the Harvard Corporation, which decided to follow the recommendation.

“This decision reflects deep concerns about the grievous crisis that persists in the Darfur region of Sudan and about the extensive role of PetroChina’s closely affiliated parent company, China National Petroleum Corporation, as a leading partner of the Sudanese government in the production of oil in Sudan,” said the CCSR in a statement.

The effort at Harvard has inspired student organizations at other schools to take similar steps. In California’s Claremont Colleges, the Genocide Awareness Committee is spearheading an effort to inquire into their own colleges’ investments while calling upon other schools to do the same. In a letter distributed from students at the Claremont Colleges to other universities last week, groups commented Harvard’s decision to divest.

“No matter how profitable it might be for a college or university to invest in PetroChina or any other company entangled in this genocide,” their letter said, “we must condemn such a position as utterly immoral.”