Finnish Prime Minister wants investigation into claims of violence linked with Stora Enso activities in China
Company says “third party” may be involved
By Eeva Eronen and Miska Rantanen
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) says that Finland is contacting Chinese officials immediately concerning the land disputes linked with the activities in China of the forest company Stora Enso.
“Finland is not an actual party to the dispute as such, but as the state has partial ownership in Stora Enso, I feel that it would be appropriate to be in contact with China on the official level, and to tell them that such suspicions have been put forward”, Vanhanen said on Sunday evening.
He made the comments after Helsingin Sanomat had published a story on possible links between Stora Enso and land disputes in Guangxi Province in China, where the company has operated since 2002. Stora Enso is planning the construction of a pulp and paper mill in the area.
As its raw material the factory is to use eucalyptus trees, which have been planted on what used to be agricultural land tilled by local villagers. The residents do not feel that they have received sufficient compensation, and officials have responded to their resistance with violence.
The Finnish state is a major shareholder in Stora Enso. The company says that it does not accept any kind of violence in areas where it operates.
Vanhanen says that it is absolutely necessary to clarify the suspicions that were raised by the article.
“If the information is true, the situation is impossible to accept. Criminal action would be involved.”
So what kinds of practical possibilities would the state have to monitor the activities of companies in which it is an owner?
“Finnish companies must operate according to laws and rules - regardless of whether or not state ownership is involved. In addition, the companies need to see to it that possible cooperative partners show the same high moral standards”, Vanhanen says.
“If crimes have occurred, and someone has been involved, then that person bears responsibility before Chinese law as well. Those responsible need to be found in the official investigation.”
Stora Enso expects to get more information this week on the violence. Lauri Peltola, Stora Enso’s head of communications, says that an investigation on the matter is already under way.
“We need to find out what has really happened there.”
Peltola points out that because of the wide geographical area that is involved, investigations take time. In addition, there are many villages there that have the same name.
Peltola says that it is possible that neither Stora Enso nor the Chinese officials blamed by the local people have anything to do with the violence. “It can be that there is a third party behind them, which is not in any way within our sphere of influence.”
According to Peltola, possible wrongdoings are serious matters, considering that Stora Enso has a reputation around the world as a responsible forest company.
He emphasises that the company must operate on the same moral level and under the same rules in all countries as it does in Finland.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 27.04.2009
More on this subject:
Chinese farmers lose land to Stora Enso tree plantations
Stora Enso to investigate land use dispute over tree plantations in China (28.4.2009)
EEVA ERONEN AND MISKA RANTANEN / Helsingin Sanomat