Marriott rejected Uyghur conference to maintain ‘political neutrality’

The Prague Marriott cited “political neutrality reasons” for its decision to refuse to host the Uyghur World Congress, according to an email first reported by Axios.

In a sentence, Marriott international (SEA), Inc. said the Prague hotel’s response to the group “was not consistent with our policies.” Marriott said the Prague hotel management team has reached out to the group to apologize.

“We are working with the hotel team to provide additional training and education on our long-standing inclusive practices,” said Marriott.

Marriott confirmed that last month, the Prague Marriott sent an email to the activist group explaining that the conference planned for November would not take place at the venue, after consulting with corporate management.

“Unfortunately, I have to inform you that we cannot offer the venue. We consulted the whole matter with our corporate management. For reasons of political neutrality, we cannot offer events of this type with a political theme,” the email read. .

Marriott International told CNN that this was a “hotel-level decision” and that the reference to “business management” refers to the management of the Prague hotel.

Activists find Marriott’s response “chilling.”

Based in Germany, the Uyghur World Congress is made up of exiled Uighurs and those seeking to draw attention to allegations of genocide in China’s Xinjiang region. An independent report by more than 50 world experts published in March found that the Chinese government “assumes state responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs” in violation of the United Nations Genocide Convention.

Chinese state media have called the Uyghur World Congress a terrorist group. China has also denied human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, calling the genocide allegations “absurd.”

Zumretay Arkin, program and advocacy manager for the Uyghur World Congress, confirmed that Marriott contacted the group’s representative in Prague. “But I’m still waiting for an official apology,” Arkin said in Twitter.
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In an interview with Axios, Arkin said Marriott’s response was “shocking.”

“We organize international events all the time and this is the first time they give us this excuse,” Arkin told Axios. “It’s chilling because of the broader concept of how China is really disrupting Western democracies.”

In its statement to CNN, Marriott said it is committed to “welcoming everyone warmly.”

“We are in the hospitality business, welcoming people from around the world and from all walks of life who represent many beliefs,” the company said.

The incident is Marriott’s latest misstep involving China, a major and fast-growing market for the hotel chain.

In 2018, Chinese authorities blocked Marriott’s website and application after the company listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan as separate “countries” in its emails and applications. Marriott profusely apologized and insisted that it respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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