SHANGHAI, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Walt Disney’s DIS.N resort in the Chinese city of Shanghai said on Monday it was investigating after a travel agency apparently refused to let a member of the Uighur Muslim minority use a resort and lodging package sold by a hotel nearby.
Screenshots of a conversation between a customer who identified as ethnic Uighur and was looking to book a Disney resort package at the Aishabao Apartment Hotel in Shanghai, and travel booking platform Zlton.com, were shared on Chinese social media and on Twitter over the weekend.
The guest was shown a notification that the package was not open to Uighurs, foreigners or holders of Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan identification cards, and was told the same by a Zlton customer service representative, according to screenshots of the exchange.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the screenshots but a spokeswoman for the Shanghai Disney Resort, referring to them, told Reuters the information Zlton gave about the resort was “completely incorrect”. She also said that Disney did not have any partnership with the Aishabao Apartment Hotel.
“All visitors who hold a valid park ticket or annual card, Shanghai Disneyland reservation code, green health code, and pass the temperature test at the entrance of the resort can enter the park normally,” Shanghai Disney Resort said in a post on its Weibo social media account.
It also said it was investigating the Zlton platform. A staff member who answered the phone at Zlton’s headquarters in the city of Suzhou declined to comment.
A staff member at the Aishabao Apartment Hotel, which sells packages priced as low as 699 yuan ($108) that include Shanghai Disney Resort tickets and an overnight stay, told Reuters that it was not authorised by police to accept Uighur guests.
Hotels and guest houses in China must typically have approval from authorities before being allowed to host foreign guests, who must be registered with the police.
Uighur people speak a Turkic language and most come from the far western region of Xinjiang, where China says separatists want to establish an independent state.
The United Nations estimates at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang under what China calls a counterterrorism and de-radicalisation effort, which has drawn widespread condemnation from around the world.
Beijing says the camps are vocational education and training centres and everyone sent to one had “graduated”.
In recent years, there have been accounts in the media and on social media of Uighurs being refused service at hotels or harassed by police after checking in, even though authorities have not announced any policy restricting their access to hotels.
“What’s new about this Disneyland case is that the hotel actually lumps Xinjiang Uighurs together with foreigners and people from Hong Kong and Taiwan,” said Ma Haiyun, an expert on Xinjiang and an associate professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland.
The Shanghai police bureau responsible for the Disney resort area said it had no knowledge of the matter.
Another hotel near the resort, similar to the Aishabao, said police had also said it could not let Uighurs stay.
Five other hotels Reuters reached said they could host Uighur guests but they had to report them to the police.
The Disney Resort’s two official hotels, Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the Toy Story Hotel, said they accept Uighur guests.
Disney faced controversy last year after the release of its movie “Mulan”, whose credits showed that it was partly shot in Xinjiang and included thanks to authorities there. Overseas activists called for a boycott of the movie.
(Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing)
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