Letter to GE Re: Three Gorges - November 3, 2003

November 3, 2003

Jeff Immelt, Chief Executive Officer

General Electric

3135 Easton Turnpike

Fairfield, Connecticut, 06828


Dear Mr. Immelt,

In early October, we learned that GE Hydro Asia placed bids on Three Gorges equipment contracts. 


As you may already know, the project’s social impacts violate internationally recognized human rights standards on internal displacement. Specifically, arable land and jobs that were promised to the resettlers are not available. Where land has been offered, it has often turned out to be of inferior quality. So far, more than 100,000 residents have been ordered to leave the region to distant provinces.  A total of 600,000 of an estimated 1.8 million people have reportedly been displaced.


Despite three years of peaceful protests and petitions by Three Gorges residents, officials have not set up independent grievance mechanisms and the resettlement process proceeds in an atmosphere of intimidation and heavy-handed police rule. The Washington Post and South China Morning Post have reported that local official arrested representatives of the residents during their attempts to deliver petition documents to state officials in Beijing. The petitions detail police brutality in treatment of affected people, inadequate compensation, and official corruption. The men were sentenced to prison for the crime of “interfering with Three Gorges resettlement. “


These arrests and sentences are in violation of international human rights laws and principles. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement specifically state under Principle 3-2 that “internally displaced persons have the right to request and to receive protection and humanitarian assistance from their authorities. They shall not be persecuted or punished for making such a request.”


Furthermore, the project’s technical viability has raised questions and concerns amongst China’s top engineers and hydrologists. The concerns were recently filed in a petition in May 2003 and submitted to state authorities. The petition includes points about the dam’s design and sediment sluicing abilities. The scientists urged that the government re-examine the design and construction of the Three Gorges dam in public seminars and meetings. They strongly recommend the dam project be carried out in line with operating it in the initial stage with a water-storage level of 156 meters.


It is widely recognized that multinational corporations have obligations to adhere to international human rights codes in their business operations. The United Nations  recognizes this importance and recently developed the Global Compact, of which over 1,200 companies from around the world are signatories to principles of conduct in the area of human rights, labor, and the environment. Two of the nine principles include how businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally recognized human rights within their sphere of influence and make sure that their activities are not complicit in human rights abuses. 


Although GE is not a signatory to the UN Global Compact for businesses, GE claims that it aims to be a good corporate citizen. We understand that GE Foundation contributes financial support to education, the arts, the environment and human service organizations in areas where it operates. In that same spirit, we would hope that GE does not continue to further environmental and social degradation by getting involved in the Three Gorges Dam again. 


Based on Export Development Canda’s support for GE’s past involvement in the Three Gorges Project, we encourage GE to raise technical and social concerns to the Chinese government as these issues may become a matter of reputational risk for GE.


We look forward to your response to these concerns. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.





Doris Shen                                Fraser Reilly-King

International Rivers Network      Halifax Initiative


Cc:   Mr. Sheng Qian Wang, GE Hydro Asia Co. Ltd., 123 Shixin Zhonglu, Xiaoshan, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 311202, China


        Mr. A. Ian Gillespie, President and CEO, Export Development Canada,

        151 O’Connor Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 1K3


        The Hon. Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of International Trade,

        Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

        125 Sussex Drive, Tower B, 5th Floor, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2


        The Hon. Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs,

        Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

        125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2