A conference of Uyghurs living in exhile, who advocate for the rights of the persecuted minority in the Xinjiang region of China where over a million have been held in internment camps, was rejected by Marriott in Prague out of a desire ‘to remain neutral’ on the issue.
The Chinese government has condemned the World Uyghur Congress, which has attempted to rally global attention to the genocide in Xinjiang, China. The decision to reject the conference reflects China’s growing ability to extend authoritarian control beyond its borders by making clear to corporations that crossing the party’s red lines will be bad for business.
The Prague Marriott Hotel sent the group an email rejecting their conference, and a site visit:
Thank you very much for your visit today. Unfortunately, I have to inform you that we are not able to offer the premises. 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 late Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said the hotel shouldn’t be doing this back in 2017.
Do we really want, as a society, for companies like Marriott and the peers in our industry and others to sit and make judgments or points of view on people sitting in our meeting rooms? I shudder to think that we really expect that my role or Marriott’s role is to say your views are not acceptable in our hotels and that another person’s views are
…We are serving people from all around the world, from all walks of life, with all points of views, equally and with a genuine welcome, with people who are equally diverse. Our arms need to be open.
Sorenson said this when Marriott was criticized for hosting an event held by a so-called hate group. When it comes to China, Sorenson toed the official line of the Chinese Communist Party from Taiwan to banned booked to authoritarian responses to Covid-19.
Marriott’s new CEO has charted the same path. However now that the Prague Marriott’s refusal to host an event with the Uyghurs has become public, the chain is apologizing. They say the ‘corporate management’ consulted was ownership group employees, rather than the brand. Though it’s also clear why a Marriott owner would think this was consistent with the brand’s policies.