World Rainforest Movement

APP’s illegal logging in China

Asia Pulp & Paper(APP), one of the world’s largest paper and pulp producer, was accused by Greenpeace for conducting illegal logging of forests in southwestern China’s Yunnan province, the most biologically diverse area in China.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed in August, 2002 between APP and the Yunnan provincial government regarding the company’s eucalyptus forest-pulp-paper integration project. While the project was waiting for approval by the central government, APP started immediately to fell trees without any permits, to clear land for its 1.83 million hectares forest-pulp plantation.

The State Forestry Administration (SFA), China’s forestry sector watchdog, released two separate reports last year stating that APP, by felling without any permits, had violated Articles 23, 29, 32, and 37 of China’s Forest Law and Article 15 of the Regulation for the Implementation of the law.

SFA said in those investigation reports that the APP project was “problematic”, to which APP responded that it was only ‘planting forest on barren lands’.

In November, 2004, after half a year of field researches and investigation, Greenpeace, an international environment protection organization, launched its first APP report – the Investigative Report on APP’s Forest Destruction in Yunnan.

In the report, Greenpeace exposed the paper company’s practices of clearing forests for plantations in Yunnan and the same wrongs it had previously been, for many years, conducting in Indonesia.

Evidence gathered in the Greenpeace report showed that APP’s proposed plantation of 1.83 million hectares had included 738,733 hectares, or 42% of the total enclosed area, of forest land. If the project was to carry out, APP would have to clear huge area of forest land.

One case study by Greenpeace recorded that APP had said that it was expecting to set up an eucalyptus pulp base over an area of 800,000 hectares on the ‘barren land’ of Simao in Yunnan province, but in fact the town only had 186,666 hectares of non-forest land in total, far smaller than its planned size.

Apparently, APP had already planned to clear out 613,333 hectares of Simao’s forest to plant fast-growing high-yielding eucalyptus trees for its expanding pulp production, despite international and Chinese scientists have warned large-scale plantations of eucalyptus would bring irreversible devastation to the local ecological systems.

One month later, in December, 2004, Greenpeace released video evidence of APP’s forest destruction practices in Yunnan. Greenpeace demanded APP to halt illegal logging in Yunnan and to carry out independent review of the sustainability of its plantation project.

The scandal attracted wide international and national media coverage. Environmental NGOs, student groups and other civil society associations rallied to support Greenpeace’s demands. Zhejiang Hotels Association, a representative of over 400 hotels in eastern China’s fast developing Zhejiang province, urged its members to boycott all APP paper products.

APP filed a lawsuit against Zhejiang Hotel Association at the local provincial court, which aroused severe irritation among the public and environmentalists from both China and overseas. Twenty two international NGOs, twelve domestic NGOs, including eight students organizations, all sent letters of support to the hotel association, demanding APP to stop all its forest destruction operations.

Just one day before Zhejiang Hotel Association had to appear for an open hearing at the court, the China Environmental Protection Union, an NGO backed by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), openly expressed its support to Zhejiang Hotel Association.

Under pressure, APP withdrew the lawsuit the same day.

The SFA, which launched a thorough probe into APP’s operations in Yunnan in December, 2004, pointed out, in an interview with China’s state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) in February, 2005, that it had found problems with the company’s deforestation in Yunnan.

“Without any permission from SFA, APP had illegally logged around 24,709 cubic metres of trees, covering 640 hectares of the local forest,” SFA told the TV station, adding that it would take legal actions against APP once it finished the whole investigation.

In a response letter to SFA this May, APP said that it will “operate legally according to Chinese regulations and policies.”

Currently, APP is running more than 6 paper mills and millions of hectares of land in China’s Yunnan, Hainan, Guangxi and Guangdong provinces, and is still planning further acquisition. It is also constantly importing wood chips from Australia and the Southeast Asia. The real victory will only come when APP stops all illegal logging in China, Indonesia and other parts of the world where it has started operations.

Indonesia, where APP and its parent company Sinar Mas Group are based, has one of the world’s poorest-managed forest industries, as a result of irrationally booming ply and pulp demand, mushrooming saw mills and flooding illegal exports. Around 90% of its industrial wood extraction is illegal. The Forestry Department of Indonesia set the ceiling of allowable forest cut for 2003 at 6.9 million cubic metres; later statistics showed, nevertheless, that 80 million cubic metres of wood had been logged for that year.

Companies, including Japan’s Ricoh, Germany’s Metro and Office Depot of the US have also boycotted APP products.

By Liu Bing, Greenpeace, e-mail: