The strong growth in China of airbnbsponsor of the Beijing Winter Olympics, is partly linked to the 700 tourist rentals that the platform proposes in Tibet and in Xinjiangwhere China is accused of violating human rights.
These accusations are based on exclusive data from the London-based NGO Free Tibe, obtained and verified by AFP.
The American tourist rental platform has not given up supporting the Games – which end this Sunday – despite calls from associations for the defense of freedoms.
Airbnb is one of the main funders of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with a nine-year sponsorship contract that runs until 2028. This support rises to 500 million dollarsaccording to the Financial Times.
The United States and other countries, which denounced the repression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, “diplomatically” boycotted the Beijing Games, sending their athletes but not official officials.
Airbnb has 380 proposed rentals in this region, according to Free Tibe.
The platform offers another 300 in Tibet, where China is accused of suppressing religious freedom and local culture.
In exchange for a commission, Airbnb connects homeowners with travelers who can rent a place for their vacations for variable periods.
Listed in the United States, the company says it derives 1% of its global revenue from China. Your overall turnover increased 25% last year compared to 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.
China “is an important element of our vocation to connect people from all countries,” Airbnb told AFP.
The platform supports causes such as Black Lives Matter, an anti-racist movement born in the United States, and claims to have spoken of the “importance of human rights” in its discussions with the IOC.
China, accused of having imprisoned more than a million Uyghurs in political re-education camps, presents Xinjiang as a magnificent tourist destination.
On the Airbnb site, guests praise the “ethnic flair” of the proposed rentals and their frame “mysterious and romantic”.
Xinjiang was in the past the scene of attacks attributed to Uyghur separatists or Islamists.
arrests and tourism
Today, experts from the region and many exiled Uyghurs abroad accuse the Chinese communist regime of trying to eliminate Muslim culture.
A Uyghur resident now settled in the United States claims that tourists flocked to Xinjiang after a wave of arrests beginning in 2017, emptying entire neighborhoods of its Uyghur residents.
At the end of 2021, the American online media outlet Axios stated that Airbnb was offering more than a dozen rentals in Xinjiang belonging to a Chinese company linked to the military and that it is subject to sanctions in the United States.
Washington accuses China of forcing Uyghurs into forced labor and imposing sterilizations on them. The Biden administration uses the term “genocide” to refer to what is happening in Xinjiang, a description also adopted last month by the French parliament and categorically rejected by Beijing.
After initially denying the existence of the camps, China is now presenting them as “vocational training centers” intended to distance its residents from Islamist radicalism.
The companies that take advantage of tourism in areas emptied of their inhabitants “are complicit in a process of genocide,” accuses sinologist David Tobin, from the University of Sheffield.
A Uyghur militant based in Norway, Abduweli Ayup, believes that the rentals offered by Airbnb or other platforms can be found in places that belonged to Uyghurs.
These companies “have a duty to determine who the owners are and to say why so many homes are empty.”