US Lawmakers Ask Blinken to Issue ‘Do Not Travel’ Notice for Xinjiang

“Tourism only serves to whitewash these atrocities—serving the interests of the Chinese Communist Party and government,” the lawmakers say.Leaders of a bipartisan U.S. commission are asking the State Department to advise Americans against traveling to the Xinjiang region of western China, where the U.S. authorities say genocide is taking place.Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ohio), chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, requesting him to raise the travel advisory rating for Xinjiang to the highest level—Level 4: Do Not Travel—which generally means that people shouldn’t travel there.The alert, according to the lawmakers, was designed to make sure that “no U.S. policies implicitly endorse the PRC’s atrocities,” referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.“Tourism only serves to whitewash these atrocities—serving the interests of the Chinese Communist Party and government,” the letter says.The ethnic minority Uyghurs and other groups in Xinjiang are subjected to mass detention, forced sterilizations and abortions, forced labor, and other abuses. According to the letter, the Chinese regime has placed millions through a sprawling network of internment camps and other detention facilities in Xinjiang, and their targets ranged from leading religious figures to Uyghur scholars.The U.S. government has determined that it considers the Chinese regime’s repression in Xinjiang “genocide.” The United Nations human rights office in 2022 found that Bejing’s suppression of Uyghur Muslims may amount to “crimes against humanity.”Related Stories“Make no mistake: under the current circumstances, tourism in the XUAR serves as a conduit for Chinese authorities’ repression of Turkic and Muslim peoples and facilitates the destruction and appropriation of their heritage and identity,” the letter says.‘Propaganda Pawns’In addition to requesting the U.S. government, the lawmakers also sent letters to three private travel companies providing package vacations that could bring American visitors to Xinjiang.These package holidays, often called Silk Road tours, offered clients opportunities to visit Xinjiang’s mosques, which are off limits to Uyghur communities to practice their faith but are used for commercial purposes, according to the letter.Some tours even include visiting local Uyghur families, but “Uyghurs themselves are forcibly separated from their family members, both in the region and abroad,” the lawmakers said.Moreover, the congressmen doubted that the Turkic and Muslim individuals involved in the tours were voluntarily doing so “given the discontent of these populations with official policies,” read the letter. “Their participation could be coerced through risk of punishment from authorities for failure to comply.”“It is our strong belief that well-intentioned tourists should not be put in the position of condoning or supporting atrocities—or be used as propaganda pawns—allowing the Chinese government to cover up its genocide and crimes against humanity.”The lawmakers asked Geographic Expeditions and Abercrombie & Kent to stop selling tours to Xinjiang immediately, and raised concerns about Wild Frontiers’ package holidays in the region. All three companies were flagged by the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) in its 2023 report. The U.S.-based rights advocacy group warned the travel firms risk of implicitly supporting “the normalization of genocidal Chinese government policies intended to destroy the Uyghur identity.”Wild Frontiers, a London-headquartered firm, has issued a statement following the release of the UHRP report, saying the company was “currently conducting a full investigation of our tours in the region.”The letter asked about the current status of Wild Frontiers’ investigation, how the probe was conducted, and why the tours with stops in Xinjiang are still advertised on its website. The lawmakers are also seeking information on whether there are monitoring mechanisms to ensure that local residents participating in its Xinjiang trip are chosen to do so freely.The Epoch Times has reached out to the three travel companies and the State Department for comment.In February, the House adopted two pieces of legislation focusing on the Chinese regime’s human rights, including the Uyghur Policy Act, which aimed to create tools for the United States to support the Uyghur and other ethnic minorities and preserve their cultural identities.

US Lawmakers Ask Blinken to Issue ‘Do Not Travel’ Notice for Xinjiang

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“Tourism only serves to whitewash these atrocities—serving the interests of the Chinese Communist Party and government,” the lawmakers say.

Leaders of a bipartisan U.S. commission are asking the State Department to advise Americans against traveling to the Xinjiang region of western China, where the U.S. authorities say genocide is taking place.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ohio), chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, requesting him to raise the travel advisory rating for Xinjiang to the highest level—Level 4: Do Not Travel—which generally means that people shouldn’t travel there.

The alert, according to the lawmakers, was designed to make sure that “no U.S. policies implicitly endorse the PRC’s atrocities,” referring to China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

“Tourism only serves to whitewash these atrocities—serving the interests of the Chinese Communist Party and government,” the letter says.

The ethnic minority Uyghurs and other groups in Xinjiang are subjected to mass detention, forced sterilizations and abortions, forced labor, and other abuses. According to the letter, the Chinese regime has placed millions through a sprawling network of internment camps and other detention facilities in Xinjiang, and their targets ranged from leading religious figures to Uyghur scholars.
The U.S. government has determined that it considers the Chinese regime’s repression in Xinjiang “genocide.” The United Nations human rights office in 2022 found that Bejing’s suppression of Uyghur Muslims may amount to “crimes against humanity.”

“Make no mistake: under the current circumstances, tourism in the XUAR serves as a conduit for Chinese authorities’ repression of Turkic and Muslim peoples and facilitates the destruction and appropriation of their heritage and identity,” the letter says.

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‘Propaganda Pawns’

In addition to requesting the U.S. government, the lawmakers also sent letters to three private travel companies providing package vacations that could bring American visitors to Xinjiang.

These package holidays, often called Silk Road tours, offered clients opportunities to visit Xinjiang’s mosques, which are off limits to Uyghur communities to practice their faith but are used for commercial purposes, according to the letter.

Some tours even include visiting local Uyghur families, but “Uyghurs themselves are forcibly separated from their family members, both in the region and abroad,” the lawmakers said.

Moreover, the congressmen doubted that the Turkic and Muslim individuals involved in the tours were voluntarily doing so “given the discontent of these populations with official policies,” read the letter. “Their participation could be coerced through risk of punishment from authorities for failure to comply.”

“It is our strong belief that well-intentioned tourists should not be put in the position of condoning or supporting atrocities—or be used as propaganda pawns—allowing the Chinese government to cover up its genocide and crimes against humanity.”

The lawmakers asked Geographic Expeditions and Abercrombie & Kent to stop selling tours to Xinjiang immediately, and raised concerns about Wild Frontiers’ package holidays in the region. All three companies were flagged by the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) in its 2023 report. The U.S.-based rights advocacy group warned the travel firms risk of implicitly supporting “the normalization of genocidal Chinese government policies intended to destroy the Uyghur identity.”

Wild Frontiers, a London-headquartered firm, has issued a statement following the release of the UHRP report, saying the company was “currently conducting a full investigation of our tours in the region.”

The letter asked about the current status of Wild Frontiers’ investigation, how the probe was conducted, and why the tours with stops in Xinjiang are still advertised on its website. The lawmakers are also seeking information on whether there are monitoring mechanisms to ensure that local residents participating in its Xinjiang trip are chosen to do so freely.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the three travel companies and the State Department for comment.

In February, the House adopted two pieces of legislation focusing on the Chinese regime’s human rights, including the Uyghur Policy Act, which aimed to create tools for the United States to support the Uyghur and other ethnic minorities and preserve their cultural identities.
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