(RNS) — Plans for a Hilton hotel to be built in China upon the former site of a Uyghur mosque, demolished by order of China’s Community Party, have been met with outrage and condemnation from various Muslim groups.
As first reported in the Telegraph, the grounds of the demolished Duling Mosque in Hotan, part of the Xinjiang province, were sold to a Chinese developer who has plans for a mixed-use development on the site, including a Hampton by Hilton hotel, which is owned by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.
A sign at the construction site for the new hotel asks passersby to “warmly celebrate the Communist Party’s 100th anniversary,” according to media reports. A review of Hilton’s website found there are already several Hilton properties in the Xinjiang province. A Hampton by Hilton hotel at Urumqi International Airport, 700 miles away from the site of the demolished mosque, and a Hilton in the center of Urumqi as well. A Conrad hotel is set to open for business in Urumqi, which is the region’s capitol, later this year.
The plans have sparked the ire of Muslim groups in the United States, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“If the Hilton Corporation goes ahead with the building of a Hampton hotel on the site of a demolished mosque, they will be assisting the Chinese government in its campaign of cultural erasure against the Uyghurs. To assist in the erasure of the Uyghurs is to assist in their genocide,” CAIR said in a statement posted on the group’s website.
Hilton Hotels did not respond to requests for comment from Religion News Service.
Since mosques are a visible part of the region’s cultural and religious heritage, they have been specifically targeted by Communist Party authorities. Elsewhere in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in the city of Ghulja, a mosque has been turned into a tourist hotel by a Han Chinese businessman, according to a report from Radio Free Asia in April.
The U.S. State Department labeled China’s treatment of its Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim populations a “genocide” earlier this year. That designation noted China’s imprisonment of a million people, which marks the largest confinement of an ethnic group in concentration camps since the Second World War.
The State Department has also noted a number of crimes, specifically the use of both forced sterilizations and abortion against women as state policy, and forced marriages with members of the ethnic Han Chinese majority. A report from the BBC this year noted rape and torture are systematic in camps where Uyghurs have been placed.
In addition to the State Department declaration, the parliaments of the United Kingdom, Canada, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium and Lithuania have made similar designations. China steadfastly has denied such accusations and maintained the camps exist solely for reeducational purposes.