US Muslim rights group to Hilton: Stop construction on demolished mosque site


The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 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 China’s Xinjiang region.

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

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., a recent report by the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph revealed.

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 and signed a contract with the owner in August 2020 to develop a Hampton hotel.

On June 15, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, national deputy director of 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 cancelling 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 US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in a written statement to RFA’s Uyghur Service on June 16, said US 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 US State Department is currently preparing a new business advisory for US 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 centre, and a Conrad hotel also in the city centre that will open for business on Aug. 31. (Source: RFA)