Harvard Grows Sinopec Holdings

Although Harvard severed ties with one Chinese oil firm linked to Sudan’s government less than a year ago, the University has increased its holdings in another Beijing-based energy company with ties to the Sudanese regime.

Harvard increased its possessions of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, also known as Sinopec, by 1,150 shares, to 134,050 shares in the last quarter of the calendar year 2005.

If Harvard has maintained its holdings since Dec. 31, the value of its Sinopec shares would have been approximately $7.8 million as of the close of the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

University spokesman John D. Longbrake declined to comment for this article in an e-mail, citing University policy to not comment on specific investments.

The University announced its decision to divest from PetroChina in April of last year due to “deep concerns” about the role of PetroChina’s parent company, the China National Petroleum Corporation, in supporting the Sudanese regime.

A report by the Harvard Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR) stated that “substantial revenue from Sudan’s oil production has gone toward the purchase of weapons.”

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin S. Powell said in September 2004 that “genocide has been committed” in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, and that Sudan’s government along with so-called Janjaweed militiamen “bear responsibility.”

As the Darfur crisis persisted, more than 80 faculty members and nearly 800 students signed an online petition urging the University to divest from PetroChina. The petition also urged University President Lawrence H. Summers to publicly state that “Harvard will not invest in any corporation that conducts business with the Sudanese government for as long as Sudan is in violation of international norms of human rights.”

The co-founder and former president of the Darfur Action Group, Sabine J. Ronc ’07, expressed concern over the increase in the University’s Sinopec holdings. “The student body clearly stated that, even if we couldn’t force the University to actively do good on our behalf, at least we can voice our opinion that we don’t want the institutions we are affiliated with to do harm,” said Ronc. “By increasing investments with Sinopec, the University is giving students a big slap in face.”

Summers told The Crimson last April that Harvard’s CCSR and Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) would consider divestment from other companies financially tied to the Sudanese government “in light of the criteria established in the CCSR’s statement.” The ACSR is a 12-person panel of students, faculty, and alumni that makes recommendations to the Harvard Corporation on ethical issues surrounding Harvard’s investments.

However, Harvard has yet to divest from other Sudan-linked companies remaining in its portfolio.

Some of Harvard’s peer institutions have already taken the lead in divesting entirely from firms with ties to the Sudanese government. In June 2005, Stanford announced its decision to sell all its direct stakes in corporations linked to the Sudanese government, including PetroChina and Sinopec. Amherst College made a similar decision to divest from 19 Sudan-linked companies—including Sinopec—last month.

A United Nations official estimated last March that at least 180,000 people have died during a year-and-a-half of conflict in the Darfur region.

—Staff writer Alexander H. Greeley can be reached at agreeley@fas.harvard.edu.