Airbnb allegedly hosting rentals in Xinjiang on land owned by sanctioned group | China

Airbnb reportedly lists more than a dozen properties on land owned by the Xinjiang paramilitary company, which has been sanctioned by the United States for its alleged involvement in massive human rights abuses against Uyghurs by the Chinese government.

The American media Axios reported Wednesday that the short-term rental company risked exposure to U.S. regulations preventing business dealings with sanctioned entities. Airbnb, which is a major sponsor of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, said it was not required to check the “underlying landowner” of the properties it lists.

Airbnb includes hundreds of accommodation listings in Xinjiang, including some near sites known to house mass detention centers. Axios said it has identified 14 properties belonging to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), one of several parties sanctioned by the US government in 2020 on its alleged link to serious violations of the rights of ethnic minorities.

For several years, Chinese authorities have waged a campaign of repression against minority populations in Xinjiang Province, using strategies and policies deemed by several governments, human rights and legal groups to be crimes against humanity, and by some governments, including the United States, be a genocide.

US regulators rely heavily on companies to self-report concerns, and Airbnb has already done so when it comes to users in Cuba and Crimea. An Airbnb spokesperson, Christopher Nulty, told Axios that the company takes its US Treasury obligations “incredibly seriously”.

“Ofac [Office of Foreign Assets Control] the rules require Airbnb to screen the parties we are dealing with, not the underlying landowners,” he said. “We are reviewing all hosts and guests against the World Government Watch Lists, including the Ofac Specially Designated Nationals List and Blocked Persons, including hosts associated with lists raised by Axios.”

The Guardian has contacted Airbnb in the US, Australia and New Zealand for a response.

The US XPCC sanctions, issued under the Trump administration in July 2020, generally prohibit all transactions by Americans or persons in the United States that involve the property or interests of the sanctioned parties.

“Prohibitions include making any contribution or supply of funds, goods or services by, to or for the benefit of any Blocked Person or receiving any contribution or supply of funds, goods or services from such a person,” the Treasury Department said.

The XPCC, a state-owned paramilitary and economic corporation, controls large parts of Xinjiang and is responsible for its economic development. He is known to operate some of the detention camps where up to a million Uyghurs were interned and are heavily involved in the cotton trade, which the United States and human rights groups say is linked to forced labor.

Leaked documents published this week showed links between the crackdown and political goals outlined by top Chinese Communist Party leaders, including Xi Jinping, in speeches in 2014.

Beijing has long denied accusations of human rights abuses and says the detention camps and labor programs are job training programs tied to its counterterrorism and poverty reduction efforts.

With the government’s blanket denials of abuses in Xinjiang, the province is a popular tourist destination for domestic Chinese travelers, and the government aims to more than double the number of annual visitors by 2025 to 400 million.

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