Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 18 January 2021


Uighur campaigners to target 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics sponsors

Activists will write to companies in bid to persuade them to use their influence with Chinese government

Brian Chesky

Campaigners fighting against the persecution of Uighur Muslims in China are to target private companies sponsoring the Beijing Winter Olympics in an attempt to persuade them to use their influence with the Chinese government ahead of the 2022 event.

Uighur campaigners in 10 different countries are coming together to write to companies asking them to use their platforms to educate and inform the world of the persecution under way in Xinjiang province. The first to be targeted is the chief executive officer of Airbnb, Brian Chesky.

Calling the Winter Olympics the “Genocide Games”, the campaign group would ideally like for Airbnb to withdraw its sponsorship, but will probably graduate their demands.

The San Francisco-based Airbnb secured a £500m sponsorship of the Olympics starting with the Beijing Games.

The digital campaign will include concurrent pictures of the typical accommodation available to Airbnb customers and that available to persecuted Uighurs held in detention camps.

The aim of the campaign is to persuade the huge multinationals that they will pay a commercial price if they do not use their immense soft power to persuade China to rethink its stance.

In its letter, the group broadly entitled End the Uighur Genocide Movement asks Chesky and his executive team to meet the campaigners virtually – including some of the people that have been forced to work in Chinese concentration camps and those whose loved ones have disappeared.

The group acknowledges that Chesky’s corporate aim is to bring the world closer together, adding he has built his company around the theme of “belonging”. The authors of the letter say: “We are exiles from our country, unable to go home, unable to contact our loved ones.”

They add: “All over the world, campaigners, politicians and celebrities are waking up to the horror of what is going on. There is now a real risk that that Airbnb’s brand will be stained by your association with the Genocide Games.”

Rahima Mahmut, director of the World Uighur Congress, said Airbnb could either pull out of the games or use their involvement to speak out “clearly and unambiguously” against the attacks on the Uighurs and other Muslims. She added that staying silent on this issue was not possible for Airbnb.

The campaign is being launched in America, the UK, Canada, Norway, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia.

Other major multinational sponsoring companies for the Beijing Olympics include Allianz, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Intel, Visa International, Omega, Atos and Panasonic.

Airbnb is facing the campaigner’s attention early partly because of the firm’s emphasis on corporate social responsibility. Chesky has also shown a huge personal philanthropic commitment, signing Bill Gates’s pledges to give the majority of his wealth away to charitable causes either during his lifetime or afterwards.

Airbnb has been contacted for comment

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