Airbnb is ‘Enriching’ Chinese Paramilitary Group Linked to Uyghur Repression: Sen. Rubio

By Danella Pérez Schmieloz
Danella Pérez Schmieloz
Danella Pérez Schmieloz
China Reporter
December 8, 2021 Updated: December 9, 2021

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has urged Airbnb to delist rental properties located in China’s Xinjiang region owned by a Chinese paramilitary force accused of aiding Beijing’s genocide against Uyghurs. The plea came in a letter dated Dec. 7.

“[B]y maintaining these listings, Airbnb is complicit in enriching an organization facilitating horrific human rights abuse and risks violating U.S. sanction law that prohibits such transactions from occurring,” reads the letter, sent to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.

The owner of said rental properties is Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a regional paramilitary organization under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The organization exerts administrative authority in various cities, towns, and farms, where it “runs many of the notorious mass internment camps that serve as detention, torture, sterilization, and indoctrination facilities for Uyghurs and other ethnic groups” in the far west Xinjiang region, reads Rubio’s letter.

The United Nations estimates that more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang. Survivors of the internment camps revealed the grisly details of rape, torture and other atrocities they were subjected to during detention.

The XPCC also controls most of the region’s economy, owning a substantial amount of land, says the letter. An Axios investigation found that Airbnb featured 14 listings located on land owned by the XPCC, as of November 18.

In the letter, Rubio questions the morality of an American company engaging in business—directly or indirectly—with an organization sanctioned for committing human rights violations. The Trump Administration in July 2020 sanctioned the XPCC over human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minorities.

He also wrote that by allowing “these listings, Airbnb is implicitly endorsing and encouraging travel to Xinjiang, a region host to an ongoing genocide.”

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) campaign against Uyghurs in Xinjiang has been labeled genocide by human rights groups, as well as several nations. This includes both the former and current United States administrations, and the parliaments from Canada, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Belgium, Czech Republic, and the UK.

The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent people’s tribunal based in London, is currently assessing this accusation. The final judgment will be delivered on Dec. 9.

In addition to its repression in Xinjiang, the CCP has faced international condemnation over its extensive abuses from its clampdown in Hong Kong to its suppression of faith groups, including Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners.

In his letter, Rubio demanded consistency from Airbnb, which has previously stated its commitment to racial justice causes in the United States and participated in debates related to human rights issues in Israel’s West Bank.

Rubio also advised Airbnb to withdraw its support from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The company is a major partner of the International Olympic Committee. Next February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, labeled by activists as the “Genocide Games,” has drawn heightened scrutiny over the CCP’s ongoing rights violations. In recent days, the United States, Australia, Britain, and Canada have announced diplomatic boycotts of the Games over this issue.

Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment.

Danella Pérez Schmieloz