Xinjiang: Chairs Write to Travel Companies and U.S. State Department Concerning the Whitewashing of Atrocities

(Washington) — U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the Chair and Cochair, respectively, of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), today released four letters—three to U.S.-based tourism companies and one to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken—to raise concerns about corporate complicity in the People's Republic of China's (PRC) efforts to encourage tourism to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

“The PRC wants transparency it can control, not the type that exposes and starts the process of accountability,” said the Chairs. “Tourism whitewashes the atrocities committed against Uyghurs and other minorities and puts a happy face on genocide in the XUAR. U.S. companies should not be complicit in this effort, marketing PRC-controlled tours to U.S. citizens and other foreigners. Instead, the U.S. and its allies should be demanding unfettered access for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, and long-banned experts on the region to conduct investigations of past and ongoing atrocities and other gross violations of human rights, such as forced labor.” 

The letters to Abercrombie & Kent, Geographic Expeditions, and Wild Frontiers raise concerns about advertised tours in the region and asks that they cancel any planned tours to the XUAR or respond to questions about company policies and the tours advertised on their website. The letter to Secretary Blinken asks that the State Department raise the travel advisory for the XUAR to Level 4 to discourage travel to the region and ensure that no U.S. policies even implicitly endorse the PRC’s atrocities. 

Signed copies of the letters to Abercrombie & Kent, Geographic Expeditions, Wild Frontiers, and Secretary Blinken can be found in the corresponding hyperlinks.

Background: Since January 2021, the U.S. State Department has determined that genocide and crimes against humanity are being committed in the XUAR. Authorities have subjected Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups to forced separation of children from their families; forced labor; and forced sterilization and abortions, with the intent to lower birth rates. Authorities have arbitrarily detained millions of individuals, including leading religious figures, scholars, musicians, and writers, in mass internment camps and other detention facilities. The PRC’s systematic destruction of religious and cultural sites is part of an attempt to erase and forcibly assimilate individuals from these ethnic minority groups.