American singer Jennifer Lopez has been criticized for participating in an event sponsored by the China National Petroleum Corporation held in Turkmenistan.

According to media reports, Lopez claims she was blissfully unaware of human rights complaints about the country from groups such as Amnesty International. During the musical event hosted by CNPC, she reportedly also serenaded Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, Turkmenistan’s president, with a birthday song.

But lost in many of these media reports is why CNPC was hosting an event of this magnitude that the Turkmenistan’s president would deem worthy of attending, and why CNPC appears so close to a government that has come under much pressure lately to reverse its human rights’ downward trend.

CNPC says it has been operating in Turkmenistan since 2002 and now has oil and gas assets and equity in the country. In April 2007, CNPC signed a service contract for drilling 12 natural gas wells within three years for the Turkmenistan National Geology Company. CPECC, a wholly owned subsidiary of CNPC, operates in Turkmenistan and has 1,470 local employees. The company works with its local partner Turkmenneftegasstroy State Concern.

According to Crude Accountability, an organization that works with local activists and citizen groups in the Caspian Sea basin to protect the region’s natural environment and to ensure environmental justice for communities impacted by natural resource development, companies like CNPC that want to do business in Turkmenistan’s oil and gas sectors must work very closely with Berdymukhamedov.

Crude Accountability’s report in 2011 titled “The Private Pocket of the President (Berdymukhamedov): Oil, Gas and the Law” says: “Essentially, during his presidency, through the [State Agency for the Management and Use of Hydrocarbon Resources Under the President of Turkmenistan], President Berdymukhamedov has managed to consolidate all authority, decision making, management, and, most importantly, oil and gas revenue in the hands of one person himself. Displaying untethered cynicism, he has created special laws endowing the Agency with virtually unlimited license to use these monies however it wants. And, as the Agency is under his direct authority, he has essentially given himself unlimited access to the country‚Äôs oil and gas coffers.”

So while corporate social responsibility has been touted in China by both private industry and government departments as a cornerstone of China’s development, CNPC appears ignorant of the effect its position in a foreign country like Turkmenistan can have on the local peoples in that country.

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