Protester planned against John W. Henry over Liverpool’s deal with Tibet Water

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 09: Liverpool club owner John W Henry during the opening of the new stand and facilities at Anfield on September 9, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images)

(readliverpoolfc.com)This Sunday, 4 February, before Liverpool FC’s match with Tottenham Hotspur, a mobile billboard targeting owner John W. Henry will again drive around the streets of Liverpool, urging him to drop the controversial deal with Tibet Water. The ad will read:

Under Chinese rule, Tibetans are beaten and tortured for their beliefs. John W. Henry: Your deal with Tibet Water legitimises the torture of Tibetans. Liverpool FC: Do we think this is okay?

Tibetans, Tibet supporters and Liverpool FC fans will also hand out information to supporters before Liverpool FC’s match with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

The mobile billboard previously took the streets of Liverpool on 14th January, in the lead up to the club’s successful match against Manchester City. There was widespread interest and support among passing fans, several of whom have since contacted Tibet organisations asking to help. The UK’s Tibetan community have also played a leading role in the campaign.

Chodak Hunter, Communications Manager for Tibetan Community UK North said:

The Tibetan community in the UK have been vocal in our opposition to this deal since it was first announced last year. Among the community are Tibetans who have had to flee from China’s violent occupation, while others were born and have grown up in the UK and have never been able to visit Tibet. One way or another, we all continue to be affected by the occupation, and it is heartbreaking to see it being normalised through deals that reward Chinese companies exploiting Tibet’s resources. Among the Tibetan community in the UK are Liverpool fans, who want the best for their club, while all of us are Tibet supporters, who want the best for our country. If Liverpool FC’s directors would listen to us, they would surely agree that ending this deal would be the best of both worlds.

The campaign was launched in July 2017 following the announcement of the agreement by the club. It specifically calls on Liverpool FC’s owner, John W. Henry, to terminate the deal due to Tibet Water’s presence in occupied Tibet, from where it extracts and bottles water.. A petition calling on Liverpool FC to scrap the deal has been backed by over 85,000 supporters.

Tibetans and Tibet advocacy organisations, including Free Tibet and Tibet Society, have repeatedly attempted to alert John W. Henry and Liverpool FC’s directors to the negative effects of a deal with a company exploiting resources in Tibet, which under Chinese occupation has become one of the most closed and repressive regimes on earth and the scene of grave human rights abuses.

In addition to contacting the club, Tibet organisations have attended Liverpool matches to hand out information to inform supporters about the deal. Liverpool FC fans have also contacted the club to express their concerns. Additionally, Liverpool FC supporters have contacted Free Tibet, pledging to get involved and to continue to push for the cancellation of the agreement.

Liverpool FC has taken a stand against human rights abuses in the past, including modern day slavery and human trafficking, by displaying a statement on their website that “recognises that the respect for human rights is an integral part of its social responsibility”. Updated in January 2018, the statement commits the club to “undertak[ing] increased levels of due diligence on all proposed third parties prior to entering into agreement with them”.

John Jones, Campaigns and Communications Manager at Free Tibet said:

Numerous Liverpool FC fans have been clear in their opposition to this deal, standing alongside Tibetans who fear for the future of their country under China’s military occupation. Liverpool FC’s directors should heed their calls and scrap this deal, making it clear that principles are more important than profits. To ignore these calls would be to normalise the occupation and the human rights abuses that prop it up.

Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns at Tibet Society, said:

The directors of Liverpool FC should cease this opportunity to make it clear that human rights are non-negotiable and to respond to the calls of over 85,000 people who have signed our global petition. The club’s corporate responsibility framework risks ringing hollow unless it is supported by actions which strengthen, rather than hinder human rights abroad. The deal with Tibet Water serves to undermine Liverpool FC’s international reputation as John W. Henry willfully ignores the brutal suffering of the Tibetan people.

Sondhya Gupta, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs, said:

The warm welcome we received from fans on the streets of Liverpool who were clearly concerned about their club’s agreement with Tibet Water makes it quite clear that club bosses need to think again about this deal. As football clubs like Liverpool FC enjoy ever increasing commercial success it is vital that they consider the social and environmental impacts of the companies they enter into partnerships with. Deals such as this simply serve to normalise the brutal repression of the Tibetan people

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