Airbnb, one of the high-profile sponsors of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, offers accommodation on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the US government for its complicity in the genocide and forced labor of the Muslim minority Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, as revealed this Tuesday by a journalistic investigation.
The giant digital dedicated to the offer of tourist accommodation offers the rental of at least 14 homes and hotels located on land owned by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), as found by the American media Axios
The XPCC is a powerful paramilitary organization that has long controlled vast tracts of land, natural resources, and the economy of Xinjiang. The XPCC also operates some of the mass internment facilities in Xinjiang, where it is estimated that at least one million Uighurs were detained, subjected to torture and indoctrination, and forced to renounce their religious beliefs.
The XPCC is also involved in the production of approximately one third of the region’s cotton., an industry that extensively uses the forced labor of Uyghurs.
When reviewing the annual report XPCC 2018, publicly available, and after comparing it with Airbnb data, research from Axios found that the accommodations are located within the boundaries of land owned by XPCC.
Five rentals are in rural areas, and they are advertised as ideal accommodations for their views of the countryside and for their convenience for those traveling by car. Another six houses are in the district Saybag from the regional capital Urumqi. Three are in Khorgas, a border crossing between China and Kazakhstan.
An Airbnb post indicates that one of the properties belongs to the 7th Company XPCC Cavalry Regiment, near the picturesque meadow Nalati in Yili prefecture, and advertises that guests can experience the “XPCC cavalry culture.”
Another property, the Mobei Kangyang Hotel, claims it is located in an XPCC regiment on the outskirts of Shihezi city in northern Xinjiang.
Another rental appears in Chinese with the name “XPCC Farm”.
Another ad, a small country hotel in northern Altay County, is posted on Trip.com, another reservation website. There is a review that says: “Come here to experience a new XPCC rural area, the host is a 75 year old XPCC retiree ”.
Several of the properties offered by Airbnb are located near the mass detention facilities where Uighurs have been systematically detained by the regime of Xi Jinping.
The revelations of Axios could expose Airbnb to regulatory risks, according to experts consulted by the American medium, as in July 2020, the Trump administration sanctioned the XPCC under the Global Magnitsky Act for complicity in the genocide and ongoing repression against ethnic minorities in the region.
The sanction “prohibits all transactions” that “involve any property or interest in the property ” of the XPCC.
In July 2021, several US federal agencies issued a notice to US companies, warning that they continue to operate in Xinjiang. “You could be at high risk of violating US law.”
Airbnb, in particular, did not previously discuss listing the accommodations with the Foreign Assets Control Office (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, which is in charge of compliance and enforcement of sanctions.
However, the company told Axios that it believes that sanctions do not apply to these accommodations and that it implements the guidance provided by the US Department of the Treasury to comply with the sanctions.
“We take our obligation to comply with the rules of the US Treasury very seriously. OFAC rules require Airbnb to evaluate the parties with whom we are transacting, not the underlying owners, ”the Airbnb spokesperson said, Christopher Nulty, in a statement provided to Axios.
“We screened all hosts and guests against global government watchlists, including OFAC’s specially designated citizens and blocked persons list, including hosts associated with Axios-generated lists,” said Nulty.
Airbnb added that the 14 accommodations had generated a total of just over $ 6,500 in the last 12 months, and that five of them had no reservations in this period of time.
“Stays in China have accounted for about 1 percent of income in recent years. While China has been a minor part of our financial success, we believe that China is an important part of our purpose of connecting people around the world, ”said Nulty.
Still, the region of Xinjiang (Northwest China) is an increasingly popular destination for Chinese tourists, who come to enjoy desert landscapes and a sweetened version of Uighur culture. In fact, Xi Jinping’s regime is taking advantage of the growth in tourism to demolish traditional Uighur neighborhoods and religious sites.
The revelations of Axios occur at a time when pressure on sponsors of the 2022 Winter Olympics to pressure China on its policies in Xinjiang. Other human rights groups have called for a boycott of companies sponsoring the 2022 Olympics. Pressure Mounted After Star Tennis Player Peng Shuai Disappeared, after denouncing the former Chinese vice premier for sexual abuse.
Airbnb is one of the biggest sponsors of the Winter Olympics that will start in February next year in Beijing. Along with other renowned companies such as Coca Cola, Visa, Toyota, Alibaba, and Procter & gamble paid billions of dollars to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In November a global coalition of trade unions joined the long list of human rights defenders who question whether China is hosting the Games and targeted the IOC and sponsors for endorsing the genocide and crimes against humanity that have been reported in the host country.
“We want governments to take a stand in defense of the safety of their own athletes and we want for sponsors to really assess their ties to the Beijing Winter Olympics”He added. “They have large companies that are supporting these Games that should really live up to the values that they say they respect and that is a fundamental human right ”.
But criticize China’s policies in Xinjiang or withdraw sponsorship of the Olympics. could result in a boycott of Chinese consumers or retaliation from the regime, according to analysts.
Djaouida Siaci, international human rights expert: The genocide against Uighurs in China “is an indisputable fact based on overwhelming evidence”
Slavery 21st century: Chinese regime forces more than half a million Muslims to harvest cotton by hand in Xinjiang
The massacre of the Uyghurs: why China is ethnically cleansing the Muslim minority
Like the United States, the United Kingdom is also considering boycotting the Beijing Winter Olympics