Two Democratic congressmen ratcheted up the pressure on Airbnb on Friday over its business dealings in China’s Xinjiang Province and sponsorship of next month’s Beijing Olympics in a letter to the American property rental company’s CEO, Brian Chesky.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), the respective chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, questioned “Airbnb’s commitment to human rights” due to its business dealings in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government’s increasingly oppressive treatment of the native Muslim Uyghur population has risen to the level of genocide in recent years, according to the U.S. government.
An Axios report from last year, which found that Airbnb lists at least 14 properties on land owned by a paramilitary group sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, and the company’s sponsorship of next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, which the U.S. is diplomatically boycotting, were among Merkley’s and McGovern’s primary concerns.
Airbnb did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote a similar letter to Chesky in December, calling for the company to pull out as an Olympics sponsor and “immediately delist” the properties owned by the sanctioned Xinjiang entity. On December 23, President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, which banned most imports from the Xinjiang region. Tesla also faced criticism this week for its business dealings in the province after opening a vehicle showroom in Urumqi, the province’s capital city.
Merkley and McGovern criticized Airbnb’s perceived inaction against the Chinese government’s abuses, writing, “While Airbnb continues to maintain listings in the [Xinjiang Province], it has not publicly condemned the continuing genocide taking place there…. It also continues to operate in a country whose laws require hosts to discriminate based on ethnicity, place of origin, or lack of a passport, when the ability to obtain a passport can be impossible for people of some ethnic groups.”