Greenpeace Castigates Singapore Timber Giant for Action in China
BEIJING The environmental group Greenpeace International made new accusations Thursday against Singapore-based Asia Pulp & Paper, alleging the timber giant is cutting trees from natural forests in southern China to compensate for a raw material shortage at a paper mill.
Asia Pulp & Paper rejected the report as "inaccurate" and said Greenpeace overlooks the efforts the company has made to plant trees on otherwise barren land in China to ease pressure on natural forests.
Greenpeace charges Asia Pulp & Paper, better known as APP, is logging natural forests across Hainan Province because its 67 square kilometers of eucalyptus forests in the province do not provide enough material for its Jinhai Pulp & Paper plant.
It wants APP to "fully comply with legal procedures" required by Chinese law and offer a timeline for protecting the forests of Hainan, an island province in the southernmost part of China.
In March, the environmental group's Beijing office did two onsite investigations that indicated APP was cutting trees in natural forests, according to a Greenpeace campaigner. Greenpeace shot video and interviewed local officials and farmers, some of whom lived off the natural forests.
"Commencing APP's operations in Hainan without a guaranteed environmentally sustainable supply is extremely irresponsible and should be rectified immediately," Greenpeace forest campaigner Liu Bing said in a statement.
"APP's purchase of timber in Hainan is deforestation in a disguised form," Liu added. "APP is trying to shirk its legal responsibilities." APP China General Manager Jensen Ko said APP has not cut trees in natural forests in Hainan.
"We do not agree with that. We would like to investigate further," Ko said. "We know that some of the accusations are not correct. With regard to Hainan, we are not involved in what has been mentioned." APP wants to plant more trees in China to relieve pressure on foreign lumber imports, which affect natural forests in other countries, Ko said.
The company, which has operated in China for 10 years, hopes the government and nongovernmental organizations will support it in planting trees to make the most of otherwise barren land in China, to save natural forests and to control the price of paper products sold in China, he said.
The Hainan accusations follow a flap last year about APP's forestry practices in Yunnan Province. About 80 percent of the 1.8 million hectares of land used by APP was virgin forests, said Greenpeace, which investigated the Yunnan practices on site in the summer of 2004 and began a boycott of the company's consumer paper products this spring in response to the findings.
Greenpeace said Thursday it wanted the Chinese government to investigate APP's forestry practices throughout China.
Leaders at APP, which sells paper products in 65 countries and has $5.5 billion in gross assets in China, wonder why Greenpeace has targeted their company, Ko said.
Greenpeace in Beijing has not mentioned other firms in connection with Chinese forestry practices.
"We are asking this question, why us?" he said. "Maybe it's because we are not as savvy with the media." APP plans to meet more with the media, conduct seminars and give tours of its operations to show what it has done in China.
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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News