(RNS) — A coalition of more than 40 American Muslim groups is leading a global boycott of Hilton Hotels over its involvement in a hotel project in Xinjiang, China, where a Uyghur mosque was recently bulldozed to make way for the building.
At a Sept. 16 news conference outside the Capital Hilton in Washington, representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the World Uyghur Congress, the Uyghur Human Rights Project and other organizations said Hilton had ignored a one-week deadline that CAIR had given the company to pull out of the project in Xinjiang before initiating the boycott.
“They decided to put profit over values, they decided to put their own bottom line over human rights and values,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The United States and a number of other governments around the world have labeled China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group whose homelands are in Xinjiang, as a genocide. In July, the United States’ bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China issued an open letter calling for Hilton to end the project.
“As a signatory to the U.N. Global Compact, Hilton has committed itself to supporting international human rights standards,” a July statement from the commission said. “Given these commitments, we ask that Hilton take steps to halt construction and otherwise disassociate itself and its brand from the hotel project in Hotan and reject complicity in the persecution of Uyghurs.”
The site of the bulldozed Duling Mosque in Xinjiang’s Hotan prefecture is being turned into a mixed-use development by a Chinese developer. One of the new businesses planned for the site is a Hampton by Hilton hotel, which is owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. A sign at the construction site for the new hotel asked passersby to “warmly celebrate the Communist Party’s 100th anniversary,” according to media reports.
A Hilton spokesman clarified that the company has limited influence over its franchises’ owners decisions, but confirmed that in 2019 “an independent Chinese ownership group purchased a vacant lot through public auction, with plans for commercial development, including a hotel,” adding that “Hilton was not involved in the site selection.”
According to analysis of satellite images and other data, some 65% of the province’s mosques — roughly 16,000 — have been severely damaged or destroyed by Chinese authorities since 2017, according to analysis conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
That designation noted China’s imprisonment of a million people in concentration camps. Uyghurs placed in the camps have had to deal with torture, rape and forced sterilization. Though it initially denied their existence, China now says the camps are necessary to prevent extremism. The camps are the largest confinement of an ethnic group in concentration camps since World War II.