China promotes domestic tourism in Xinjiang, site of ongoing genocide

The Chinese government is strongly promote tourism in Xinjiang while committing genocide against the indigenous residents of the region.

Why is this important: Xinjiang’s tourism industry benefits from a system that largely excludes Uyghurs while appropriating their culture for state purposes and financial gain from the majority ethnic group in China.

  • International companies are trying to decouple their supply chains from Xinjiang amid widespread Uyghur forced labor, which could potentially harming the local economy. A growth in tourism could potentially compensate for this economic loss.
  • The Xinjiang regional government announced earlier this year that it aims to increase annual tourism to Xinjiang by 158 million visitors in 2020 to 400 million by 2025.
  • The boom in tourism has put US company Airbnb in the crosshairs of US and Chinese politics, as Axios reports that the US vacation rental company owns 14 properties on land in Xinjiang owned by a government-sanctioned Chinese paramilitary group. American for complicity in genocide.

Background: The Chinese Communist Party’s tourism campaign in Xinjiang is mainly aimed at attracting Han Chinese tourists (and some foreigners) who want to experience the “exotic” landscapes and cultures of the former border region.

  • The Chinese government officially recognizes 55 ethnic minority groups, spread across the country and concentrated in areas such as Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Xinjiang and Tibet.
  • In recent decades, an ethnic tourism industry has developed around the groups, often with state support. Chinese tourists enjoy visiting ethnic minority areas, watching traditional dances and tasting local cuisine. Ethnic minority theme parks have also become commonplace.
  • Ethnic minority groups around China have often welcomed the influx of tourists, who bring an injection of money to remote and underdeveloped areas.
  • But local authorities sometimes use destructive methods to develop the tourism industry, including demolishing traditional villages and rebuilding them into “model villages”. with dances programmed every day, comfortable boutique hotels and an area for restaurants.

What is happening: In Xinjiang, this trend has become a direct state tool to eradicate all culture, The Economist wrote earlier this year.

  • The Chinese government has leveled traditional Uyghur neighborhoods and demolished mosques, cemeteries, religious shrines and important Uyghur historical sites across Xinjiang – all while rebuilding or renovating some selected sites with tourists in mind, including the famous old town district of Kashgar, once an oasis legendary on the Silk Road.
  • Tourists from the majority Han ethnic group are allowed to travel relatively freely in the highly secure region – even at 10% or more of the Uyghur population are held in around 380 internment centers in the region, sometimes within blocks of tourist sites. Many other Uyghurs are confined to their towns or neighborhoods.
  • Some Uyghurs are hired to perform traditional dances, restaurants for staff, or work in hotels, but for the most part they have been excluded from economic development by widespread discriminatory hiring practices. And Chinese authorities have seized property belonging to Uyghur business owners now locked up amid the region’s mass internment and incarceration campaign.
  • The Chinese government has punished Uyghurs for basic expressions of religiosity, including praying regularly, fasting during Ramadan, wearing Islamic clothing and teaching the Quran to their children. More than a hundred Uyghur intellectuals have been held in internment camps, while language teaching has been largely suppressed in schools.

The big picture: The Chinese Communist Party has a long history of public parade of the performative aspects of ethnic minority cultures, especially traditional dances with colorful costumes, while suppressing the significant practice of cultural traditions among these same groups.

  • The Chinese government’s policies towards ethnic minorities are “highly assimilationist,” said Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in 2016 after Chinese authorities l ‘took on what he called an “abysmal tour” of a staged ethnic minority village in Yunnan Province.

Go further: Airbnb hosts rentals in Xinijang on land owned by sanctioned group

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