13/06/2013 14:16 BST | Updated 13/08/2013 06:12 BST

Who Benefits From a Luxury Hotel in Tibet?

Next year, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) plans to open a 1,000+ room luxury hotel in Lhasa, the capital of occupied Tibet. The InterContinental Resort Lhasa Paradise will be marketed on the back of a peaceful, unspoiled land and an ancient, spiritual culture.

That will doubtless attract the tourists - it also benefits the regime that has occupied and oppressed Tibet for more than 60 years. China wants the international community to view Tibet as a happy place that is legitimately part of China and where Tibetan culture is protected. IHG's presence in Tibet and its marketing of a "paradise" resort dovetails perfectly with China's propaganda.


After 60 years of military occupation, Tibet is no paradise. The unspoiled land and ancient culture are being systematically destroyed by China's Communist regime.

And Tibetans who resist that destruction pay the price.

According to the 2013 US State Department global human rights report, repression in Tibet was "severe" throughout 2012 with the civil rights of Tibetans "strictly curtailed" by abuse such as "extrajudicial killings, torture [and] arbitrary arrests". In March, the chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee went even further, describing Tibet as "among the world's most repressed and closed societies".

The hotel was announced in 2010, not long after fatal shootings of unarmed protesters and the executions of Tibetan prisoners by Chinese authorities in Tibet. Since then, nearly 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese regime, including teenagers and young mothers. Two Tibetans self-immolated at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa just over a year ago - a temple which will be a "must-see" for InterContinental's guests.

Lhasa is heavily militarised and during recent security sweeps Tibetans have been jailed for making overseas calls. A recent Human Rights Watch report described the surveillance throughout Tibet as "Orwellian".

Uninvited Guests

As the beleaguered capital of an oppressed and occupied nation, Lhasa is not a playground for the rich. In fact, most of the rich who will make use of the hotel's facilities will be the well-paid or well-bribed servants of China's Communist regime - or Chinese businesses which depend on ties with the state for their profits. InterContinental cannot prevent the hotel's "expansive" meeting rooms and business facilities being used by the Chinese state or the Chinese military, perhaps even to discuss the further repression of the Tibetan people.

It's true that the hotel will provide jobs - but more than 95 per cent of visitors to Tibet are Chinese and will expect those who attend to them to use the Chinese language, not Tibetan. Luckily for those guests, Lhasa is now packed full of Han Chinese migrants who will be able to take the jobs and serve their needs.


The presence of an upmarket, multinational brand such as InterContinental gifts priceless PR to the occupying Chinese regime responsible for gross human rights abuses throughout Tibet. IHG and China will reap the benefits of the hotel. Tibetans will wash the dishes, park the cars and pay the price of IHG's presence.

Tibetans may have no choice but to accept jobs in the "Lhasa Paradise" resort, but what they want, and struggle constantly to attain, is freedom.

Since Free Tibet launched its campaign against InterContinental's hotel in Lhasa three weeks ago, more than 1,600 thousand people and organisations have promised to boycott Intercontinental hotels until they stop being parasites in their so-called paradise. Be one of them at