UHRP Finds Prominent International Travel Companies Offering Problematic “Genocide Tours” in East Turkistan

Tourism Briefing 2023

For immediate release
August 30, 2023, 7:00 a.m. EDT
Contact: Omer Kanat, +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin, +1 (646) 906-7722

New research from the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) highlights the troubling industry of organized travel to the Uyghur region despite ongoing crimes against humanity and genocide. The briefing, Genocide Tours: International Travel Companies in East Turkistan, is the first on a series on the tourism industry in East Turkistan, also known as “Xinjiang.” 

Sites in Kashgar, Turpan, Ürümchi, and other destinations on tour itineraries are connected to crimes against humanity and genocide through repression of religious belief and expression, destruction of tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples, as well as large-scale racial profiling, surveillance, internment, imprisonment, torture, sexual assault,and deaths in custody. 

UHRP calls on international travel companies to immediately end tours to East Turkistan, and calls on individuals not to take organized tours to the region. 

“Travel companies have no business in running tours to sites of ongoing atrocities. Nobody would have dreamed of taking tourists into Rwanda, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, or Darfur in the midst of the horrors in these places. The same should apply to East Turkistan,” said UHRP Executive Director, Omer Kanat

Mr. Kanat added, “There are Uyghurs overseas who have not spoken to their loved ones for over seven years and do not dare  to return home due to the fear of detention and disappearance. It is extremely offensive to see that companies are trying to make profits by taking tourists to visit our homeland when many Uyghurs are too afraid to go.”

UHRP’s Genocide Tours identifies seven international travel companies with tour itineraries that include sites in East Turkistan. Many of these tours provide highly problematic “experiences,” such as visits to Uyghur homes, which families are not in a position to refuse, given an environment of securitization and state control. This constitutes a gross violation of privacy and perpetuates the surveillance programs that have been carried out in Uyghur homes.

Further, by bringing tourists to East Turkistan, international travel companies are implicitly supporting the normalization of genocidal Chinese government policies, intended to destroy the Uyghur identity, and reinforce the complete denial of the Uyghur people to define “Uyghurness” for themselves.

“The travel industry is eager to demonstrate a commitment to ethical standards of business practice. These are either internal, industry, or international  standards, to which the travel companies presented in this briefing have agreed and supported. The gap between the values presented to the public and the ethics of organizing tours to sites of ongoing crimes against humanity is considerable,” said Director of Research, and briefing author, Dr. Henryk Szadziewski.

UHRP’s briefing calls for immediate action by international travel companies and travel industry associations. UHRP urges international travel companies to end tours to East Turkistan and the risk of complicity in an ongoing genocide. Further, companies and associations should commit and adhere to the highest of international human rights standards for the travel industry, the Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics, approved by the UN General Assembly in 2019.

See also:

The Complicity of Heritage: Cultural Heritage and Genocide in the Uyghur Region (UHRP, February 9, 2023)

The Disappearance of Uyghur Intellectual and Cultural Elites: A New Form of Eliticide (UHRP, December 8, 2021)

Kashgar Coerced: Forced Reconstruction, Exploitation, and Surveillance in the Cradle of Uyghur Culture (UHRP, June 3, 2020)

Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghur Mosques and Shrines (UHRP, October 28, 2019)

Extracting Cultural Resources: The Exploitation and Criminalization of Uyghur Heritage (UHRP, June 12, 2018)

Living on the Margins: The Chinese State’s Demolition of Uyghur Communities (UHRP, April 2, 2012)

Image credit: Patrick Wack