Muslim Rights Group Demands Hilton Stop Building Hotel on Site of Demolished Mosque in China’s Xinjiang

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says it is unacceptable for a U.S. company to build a hotel in a location of an ongoing genocide.
2021-06-21
Share

The largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in the United States has called on the Hilton hospitality company to halt the construction of a hotel on the site of a destroyed Uyghur mosque in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). 

Recent reporting by the UK newspaper the The Daily Telegraph revealed that Chinese authorities had torn down the mosque in the city of Hotan (in Chinese, Hetian) and were planning to replace it with a large shopping center, including a Hampton, a hotel brand owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.

Huan Peng Hotel Management Company, Ltd. told the newspaper that the land on which the hotel is being built was purchased at a public auction by a local landowner in 2019. The Chinese company signed a contract with him in August 2020 to develop a Hampton hotel.

RFA’s Uyghur service confirmed that the destroyed mosque was the Duling mosque in central Hotan, a city of 409,000 people in southwestern Xinjiang.

On June 15, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), wrote a letter to Christopher Nassetta, chief executive officer of Virginia-based Hilton Worldwide, calling on the company to “stand on the right side of history by announcing that Hilton will be canceling this project and ceasing all operations in the Uyghur region of China until its government ends its persecution of millions of innocent people.”

In a telephone interview with RFA, Mitchell said that opening a hotel in a place where a genocide is occurring is immoral and illegal.

The U.S. State Department in January designated abuses in the region were part of a campaign of genocide. The parliaments of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Lithuania have passed motions determining that China’s policies in the XUAR constitute genocide.

Authorities in the XUAR are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017. China says they are vocational training centers to combat radicalism and prepare young Uyghurs for employment and it stridently rejects genocide accusations.

“Hilton has got to do the right thing, they have got to cancel this project, Mitchell said. “If they continue with the project, they are being complicit in a genocide. Simple as that.”

Contacted by RFA’s Uyghur Service, a spokesperson for the hotel chain, who declined to be identified by name, said: “We are aware of the controversy, but I’m not able to give you a statement at this time.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in a written statement to RFA’s Uyghur Service on June 16, said U.S. companies, including Hilton, need to increase their awareness of the ongoing crackdown and atrocities committed against Uyghurs and other Muslims in the XUAR.

USCIRF vice chairman Nury Turkel told RFA in a phone interview that many American companies have yet to wake up to the crisis in the Uyghur region, and that the U.S. State Department is currently preparing a new business advisory for U.S. firms to follow.

“These companies [profiting from] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity and these American companies who are sponsoring the Winter Olympics slated for next year are asleep,” he said, referring to the 2022 Winter Games which will be held in Beijing. “They have yet to wake up.”

“Just what will wake them up, perhaps law passed by Congress or the executive branch, is a very pressing matter,” Turkel said.

Hilton Worldwide already operates a Hampton hotel at Urumqi International Airport in the XUAR's capital, the Hilton Urumqi in the city center, and a Conrad hotel also in the city center that will open for business on Aug. 31.

Moving ahead with plans

In January, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) to detain all cotton products and tomatoes from the XUAR at the country’s ports of entry, saying that the agency had identified indicators of forced labor.

The move followed similar steps in 2020 against hair-product and garment producers in the XUAR.

Brenda Smith, CBP’s executive assistant commissioner for trade, told RFA’s Uyghur Service at the time that the WRO was “a message to the trade community that we expect them to do their due diligence around shipments coming from that region and that we will detain and ask questions if a shipment that falls under those parameters arrives in the U.S.”

Robert S. McCaw, CAIR’s government affairs director, said that Hilton will be helping to cover up a genocide if it does not stop the project. He also said that the U.S. government should investigate whether Hilton has violated the law.

“The U.S. government recognizes a campaign of genocide being carried out by the government of China, targeting Uyghur Muslims and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang,” he said. “And yet, Hilton, a U.S.-based company is moving ahead with its plans to build on this desecrated mosque.”

“It’s unconscionable, and Hilton Worldwide Holdings needs to immediately cancel its plans to build this hotel, because otherwise it would be profiting off the genocide of Uyghur Muslims,” McCaw said. “It would actually be helping cover up the genocide of Muslims in that region, by building over their history, their culture, and the fact that they lived in that region.”

As part of the process of wiping out Uyghur culture and religious identity, the Chinese state has destroyed or damaged about 16,000 of the more than 24,000 mosques in the XUAR mostly since 2017, according to a September 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a think tank.

Mitchell called on the U.S. Congress to pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which aims to address the systematic use for Uyghur forced labor in the XUAR and ensure that U.S. companies are not complicit.

The legislation would change U.S. policy on the XUAR with the goal of ensuring that American entities are not funding forced labor among ethnic minorities in the region. The bill passed in the House of Representatives by a 406-3 vote in September 2020.

“If corporations are not going to do the right thing, then the American government must require them to do the right thing,” he said. “No one should be able — no American corporation should be able — to benefit from our country at the same time they are supporting a genocide in another country.”

Congress is also considering passage of the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act, which designates Uyghurs who are at risk of refoulement in multiple countries as priority refugees and allows them to apply to resettle in the U.S. The bill was introduced in April.

Reported by Jelil Kashgary for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by the Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Add comment

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

View Full Site