A coalition of more than 40 advocacy groups have launched a global boycott of Hilton to pressure the hotel chain to cancel a project in China’s Xinjiang region, after the Telegraph revealed the development was on the site of a mosque bulldozed in 2018 by Chinese authorities.
The US government and UK parliament have declared genocide is occurring in Xinjiang, where as many as two million people are estimated to have been detained in ‘re-education’ camps.
The Chinese government has razed 16,000 mosques and altered or destroyed about 60 per cent of the region’s Islamic sites sacred to Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim minority, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank.
A Telegraph investigation found mosques converted for use as a public toilet and other former sites reduced to bare ground or paved over as car parks.
“To do business in the location where genocide is occurring and to essentially help engage in the genocide is unacceptable,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the organisation leading the boycott campaign.
“Hilton is symbolic of a broader problem, which is corporate complicity in China’s human rights abuses.” he told the Telegraph. If the Hilton project continues, it “sends a message to the Chinese government [that] they can act with impunity and everyone will be too afraid to do anything about it.”
The boycott campaign comes after US politicians and rights groups issued calls in recent months for Hilton to pull out of the development.
“Hilton should not allow its name to be used to perpetuate and promote the cultural erasure and repression of the millions of Uyghurs,” the bipartisan US Congressional-Executive Commission on China wrote in July to Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta.
“The continued presence of international brands in [Xinjiang] has given the Chinese government a public relations tool to whitewash these human rights abuses.”
Groups involved in the boycott campaign include the Uyghur Human Rights Project, World Uyghur Congress, Justice for All, US Council of Muslim Organizations, Muslim Council of Britain, Belgium Uyghur Association and more. An online petition for the boycott has generated thousands of signatures.
Hilton has before said the hotel was a franchise development overseen by Huan Peng Hotel Management, a Chinese firm.
The hotel doesn't "publicly discuss the details of its business arrangements," a company spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.
Hilton said that in 2019, a Chinese company "purchased a vacant lot through public auction, with plans for commercial development, including a hotel. Hilton was not involved in the site selection."
At least three Hilton-branded hotels are in operation in Xinjiang, all in the region’s capital of Urumqi.
China has defended its Xinjiang detention camps, saying they’re necessary to rehabilitate would-be terrorists, and rejected allegations of mosque and shrine demolition as “total nonsense,” saying renovations gave them a “modern touch.”