Coca-Cola Emphatically
Denies Human
Rights Violations
in Its China Businesses

By Thomas Wilkins

The Coca-Cola Company denied and protested emphatically charges of dangerous work conditions and human rights abuse in China at its annual stockholder’s meeting in Georgia. A shareholder proposal from a California investment firm cited publications and reports claiming Coca-Cola used prison labor in China and the company, its bottlers and suppliers “have been associated with human rights controversies.”

Mr. Neville Isdell, outgoing Chairman of the Board, denied these claims, saying the cited reports were not updated . He also said regarding China: “We take labor practices seriously. Our internal investigations found no use of prison labor.”

The heated exchange between Ray Rogers, director of Corporate Campaign Inc was a fire storm as shareholders considered whether to vote yes or no on a proposal by a shareholder connected with Harrington Investments of Napa, California. This organization has pressed for shareholder advocacy over a twenty five year period. It claims to have persuaded 120 publicly traded corporation to expand economic, social and environment accountability and responsibility. Another stockholder was evicted from the meeting hall of an estimated one thousand in attendance after he refused to stop propelling charges against Coca-Cola management.

The California advocacy firm has campaigned since the early 2000’s to ensure that the rights of Chinese workers and citizens be protected by asking companies to sign the China Business Principles. This is a code of conduct written by Amnesty International, the International Labor Rights Fund and Global exchange.

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