The Marriott hotel in Prague refused to host a conference on its premises for activists and leaders fighting for the rights of Uyghurs in China, Axios reported.
In an email sent to the World Uyghur Congress, which has attempted to shine a spotlight on the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China, the hotel cited the need for “political neutrality” as the reason the conference was denied the venue, Axios reported.
“Unfortunately, I have to inform you that we are not able to offer the premises,” the email read, Axios reported. “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. Thank you once again for your time and understanding.”
The World Uyghur Congress reached out to several hotels for quotes through local partners, Zumretay Arkin, the group’s Munich-based program and advocacy manager for the group, told Axios. A representative was sent to visit the Marriott, but the group received the rejection email soon after the visit.
Melissa Froehlich Flood, Marriott’s senior vice president for global corporate communications, told Axios the hotel would be “contacting the group to apologize, as the hotel’s response was not consistent with our policies.” She clarified that hosting the organization would not have violated its policies against “political neutrality” and that the “corporate management” part of the email referred to “hotel-level management.”
“We are working with the hotel team to provide additional training and education on our longstanding practices of inclusion,” she added.
The Chinese government has condemned the World Uhygur Congress as a terrorist organization, with its embassy in Prague denouncing the conference before it took place Nov. 12-14, Axios reported. The U.S.-based company has worked to appease China, its biggest international market, in the past.
Marriott International issued an apology in 2018 after Chinese authorities shut down its booking website in response to an online questionnaire that listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as countries, as opposed to Chinese territories, The Guardian reported.
“We do not support separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” Marriott said in a statement at the time. In the same year, the hotel company fired a U.S.-based employee for liking a pro-Tibet social media post with a company Twitter account.
“We organize international events all the time and this is the first time we were given this excuse,” Arkin told Axios. “It is chilling because of the broader concept of how China is really disrupting Western democracies.”
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