Newsable: Travel companies ditching tours to China’s Xinjiang province

Newsable: Travel companies ditching tours to China’s Xinjiang province

Ng Han Guan/AP

Residents line up inside the Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center which has previously been revealed by leaked documents to be a forced indoctrination camp at the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China’s Xinjiang region

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Travel companies are ditching Xinjiang region tours, following the release of a report into the packages by a human rights group.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) found at least seven tourism operators were offering holiday packages to province – the homeland of the Uyghur people.

China’s government has been accused of widespread mistreatment of this indigenous population.

It’s been alleged the Chinese authorities have carried out crimes against humanity that include mass detention of Uyghur muslims, forced re-education, and oppression of religion.

Henryk Szadziewski is the author of the report for the UHRP, and he speaks with Newsable this morning – below is an edited transcript of the interview which you can listen to in full here.

Where are these tourism operators based? Are they local – in China?

[From] the ones that I could find online, they are based in North America, Europe, and also I Australia – but some of these companies have offices in multiple spaces.

What is actually on offer on a tour of Xinjiang?

Primarily they visit three destinations which are the regional capital of Urumqi, the southern city of Kashgar, and then a nearby city, Turpan.

In Urumqi, it’s mostly a logistics hub, but there’s a regional museum there that offers exhibitions on ethnic culture in Turpan. It’s mostly desert oriented tourism in Turpan, and then in Kashgar it’s focused a lot on Uyghur culture.

Can you outline why you and the UHRP say these holiday packages are problematic?

I think the optics of it are certainly disastrous for these companies. (There are) a lot of Uyghurs overseas who are unable to visit or return home (to Xinjiang), and they’re unable to speak to their relatives. So, the idea of sending tourists is disastrous, in my opinion.

There’s an angle, of course, of profiteering off of these tours while there are ongoing crimes against humanity, but also the Chinese government’s narrative of Uyghurs as an exotic people, not having the ability to develop their own culture in their own ways.

Have you had any response from the travel operators?

We have, and to their credit, [one of the operators] listened to us and our concerns very attentively and since the publication of the report, they’ve taken down their tour. [And a] second travel company has taken down its tour, too.

On the other hand we’ve had responses from one company which has made the argument that they believe travel is a force for good by sending tourists into these spaces. So, they’ve really doubled down on sending tourists to the Uyghur region.

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