Fidelity Investments is a highly successful conglomerate perhaps best known for its 2005 acquisition of Paul McCartney. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman is a former COO of Fidelity Investments.
Activists are calling on Fidelity and other investment houses to divest from Chinese oil companies that help fund the killing in Darfur.
Pressure is increasing against the government of China for its business ties to Sudan, and for its inaction as the Sudanese government pursues genocide in the Darfur region—and the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics are providing useful leverage. Darfur activist groups have begun to link the Olympics with the Darfur genocide, according to a recent New York Times report. The Times credits "Hollywood," and in particular, Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg. Farrow has "start[ed] a campaign to label the Games in Beijing the ‘Genocide Games' and call[ed] on corporate sponsors and even Mr. Spielberg, who is an artistic adviser to China for the Games, to publicly exhort China to do something about Darfur." After Farrow warned Spielberg, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, that he could "go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games," Spielberg sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao "condemning the killings in Darfur and asking the Chinese government to use its influence in the region" to end the genocide. Soon afterward, China sent a senior official to tour refugee camps in Darfur and pushed the Sudanese government to accept U.N. peacekeepers.
Hollywood luminaries may be garnering the most attention, but their activities represent only a small slice of the international campaign to pressure China for its cozy business dealings with the Sudanese government. Darfur activists in the United States have begun a campaign to pressure U.S. investment firms to divest from two Chinese oil companies that operate in Sudan and thereby help to fund the genocide. Fidelity Investments, according to the Massachusetts-based group Fidelity Out of Sudan, "through its mutual funds, not only has been a major investor in two of the largest companies in the oil industry in Sudan, PetroChina (PTR ) and China Petroleum (SNP , aka Sinopec), but it has been significantly increasing its holdings in these companies and is the largest holder of PetroChina (PTR) on the New York Stock Exchange." According to Fidelity Out of Sudan chair Eric Cohen, "PetroChina's government-owned pa rent company, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), is a major enabler of the genocide in Darfur, because 70-80 percent of the income generated from Sudan's lucrative revenue sharing agreement with CNPC is funneled into its military." The group's campaign, called "400,000 Voices for 400,000 Lives," is also targeting Warren Buffet's investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway, which has a $3 billion stake in PetroChina. At the company's annual meeting in May, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders will have the opportunity to vote on whether the company should divest from PetroChina.
For more information about the campaign and to sign a petition asking Fidelity and Berkshire Hathaway to divest from any Darfur- related oil investments, visit www.FidelityOutOfSudan. com.
Chris Sturr is co-editor of Dollars & Sense.