America’s largest Muslim civil rights organisation, as well as over 40 other U.S. and international groups, have called for a global boycott of Hilton hotels over plans to build a hotel on the former site of a Uyghur mosque demolished by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are targeting Hilton Worldwide, the U.S. company that manages and franchises the Hilton portfolio of hotels and resorts, many of which are in the Muslim world.
Among the organisations which support the global boycott campaign are the World Uyghur Congress, the Uyghur Human Rights Project, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Belgium Uyghur Association, and the Justice and Liberties for All Committee, France.
Speaking outside the Capital Hilton in Washington announcing the boycott campaign, Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of CAIR, said: “Today, we are announcing a global boycott campaign against Hilton… We gave them (Hilton) enough time to reconsider their decision and to cancel and pull out from this project… we negotiated with them indirectly to no avail.
“You and I have the choice to choose where to go on your travel or to do business meetings or to hold events, weddings or banquets… We appeal to people who go on Hajj, who visit Madinah, Mecca, not to stay at the Hilton hotel… enough is enough,” he said.
According to CAIR, the coalition has appealed “to join the global boycott of all Hilton-owned hotels until the company cancels its plan to establish a hotel on the site of a bulldozed Uyghur mosque in China.”
Responding to the boycott call, a spokesperson for Hilton hotels said that “the company’s franchise model limits Hilton’s involvement in the development and management of properties. However, we can confirm that in 2019 an independent Chinese ownership group purchased a vacant lot through public auction, with plans for commercial development, including a hotel. Hilton was not involved in the site selection.”
The mosque where Hilton says it wants to construct Hampton Inn hotel was demolished in 2018 in the Hotan province.
In July, a bipartisan U.S. Congressional Commission called on Hilton to “halt construction and otherwise disassociate itself and its brand from the hotel project in Hotan.”
“Hilton should not allow its name to be used to perpetuate and promote the cultural erasure and repression of the millions of Uyghurs living in the XUAR,” the commission added.
Global rights groups have for years criticised China for its treatment of Uyghur Muslim population in the East Turkistan region. Beijing has been accused of cultural genocide, mass internment, separating children from families, and the desecration of religious and cultural locations.
According to a research by Australian Strategic Policy institute, between 2017 to 2020 some 16,000 mosques and half of the region’s other holy sites – such as shrines and graveyards – have been demolished or partially destroyed by the Chinese authorities.
China rejects the accusations as propaganda and says it is combatting terrorism and extremism.