Hilton boycott launched as firm presses on with hotel on Uighur mosque site

Hilton boycott launched as firm presses on with hotel on Uighur mosque site
CAIR and other groups held a press conference on Thursday morning to discuss their boycott of Hilton over its decision to move forward with a hotel project on the site of a destroyed Uighur mosque.
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
16 September, 2021
CAIR and Uighur human rights organisations hold a press conference at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC to discuss their boycott of the hotel chain. (TNA/Brooke Anderson)

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a press conference on Thursday morning in front of the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington, DC to discuss the beginning of an international boycott of the chain over plans to build a hotel on the site of a destroyed Uighur mosque.

Standing at a podium in front of the main entrance to the hotel were representatives from CAIR, along with Uighur human rights organisations, who spoke about their decision to lead this international boycott amid continued crackdowns of the Uighur community.

"We are here today simply because we care about Muslim Uighurs – families and children," Nihad Awad, CAIR's executive director, said as he stood among a group of Uighur human rights activists and their supporters. "The Chinese government has been attempting to erase and destroy the Uighurs’ culture and faith."

This follows another press conference from last week in which CAIR and other groups delivered a letter to Hilton at its corporate headquarters in northern Virginia telling them they had one week to reverse their plans to build a hotel on a bulldozed Uighur mosque in China’s Xinjiang province. Hilton’s plans for a hotel, announced earlier this summer, were immediately met with criticism due to its sensitive location.

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China's Uighurs have faced routine crackdowns, including mass surveillance, forced labour, indefinite detention, and destruction of their cultural sites. A growing number of international institutions are using the term genocide to describe the treatment of the Uighurs.

Those who held the press conference seemed confident that the boycott will prove effective.

“People are starting to listen,” Omar Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, told The New Arab.

“Is it that hard just to do the right thing?” Rushan Abbas, founder and executive director of the Campaign for Uyghurs, asking why Hilton can’t reverse their hotel plans. She wonders if the hotel chain is feeling pressure to continue this project to maintain a good business relationship with China.

Awad, who has been in contact with Hilton since the project was announced, is confident that this boycott will be effective, citing past boycotts they’ve led of large corporations who reverse course under activists’ pressure.

“We believe in the power of people,” he told TNA.

“I’ve made it very clear to them that they will feel the consequences of their decisions.”