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Hilton urged to ditch plans for hotel in Xinjiang



Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

A US congressional commission has called on Hilton Worldwide to pull out of a hotel project in China’s Xinjiang region after a Daily Telegraph investigation revealed the development was on the site of a mosque bulldozed in 2018 by Chinese authorities.

Both the UK parliament and the US government have declared genocide is taking place in Xinjiang, given the destruction of religious and cultural sites important to the Uyghur, an ethnic Muslim minority in China.

As many as two million people are estimated to have been detained in “re-education” camps.

In a letter on Thursday to Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta, the bipartisan
US Congressional-Executive Commission on China urged the company to scrap its involvement in the hotel project.

“The site is emblematic of the Chinese government’s campaign of widespread destruction of Uyghur religious and cultural sites... and official efforts to eradicate Uyghurs’ religious and cultural practices,” wrote commission heads, Democrat senator Jeff Merkley and representative James McGovern, as well as Republican senator Marco Rubio and representative Jim Smith.

“Hilton should not allow its name to be used to perpetuate and promote the cultural erasure and repression of the millions of Uyghurs,” the letter said.

“We ask that Hilton take steps to halt construction... The continued presence of international brands in [Xinjiang] has given the Chinese government a public relations tool to whitewash these human rights abuses.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest US Muslim advocacy organisation, has also called on Hilton to drop the project, and this week urged shareholders to seek information about the development.

The Daily Telegraph revealed in June that a Hampton by Hilton hotel was under construction on the site of a demolished mosque in Hotan, a prefecture in Xinjiang.

Hilton at the time noted the hotel was a franchise project overseen by a Chinese firm, Huan Peng Hotel Management, which said the land itself had a local owner and was a vacant lot at the time of purchase via public auction.

Huan Peng said that it would “comply fully with all local laws, authorities and Hilton brand development standards”.

Three Hilton-branded hotels are in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi.

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Hilton did not immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think-tank, estimates 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang have been destroyed or damaged due to Chinese government policies since 2017.

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