Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Prime Minister Theresa May said she is “very committed” to resolving the issue
Marriott International has said it did not invite exiled Uyghur politician Rebiya Kadeer to a conference on Chinese issues because it sought to maintain “political neutrality”.
The US-based Ms Kadeer was invited to speak at the annual gathering in Washington this month, the US Department of State said.
The hotel chain did not stop its agreement to host the conference, a spokeswoman told the BBC.
China accuses Ms Kadeer of having links to a failed 1997 uprising.
“Marriott values political neutrality and has consistently maintained that over the course of the last 25 years of our ownership of the Hyatt Regency Washington as well as more recently, all other Hyatt Regency properties,” said Marriott global head of public affairs Jenna Gantz.
Ms Gantz said all arrangements for Ms Kadeer’s speech were found by her team after an invitation was made to her by the conference organisers, the National Endowment for Democracy.
A history of relations
The US government delegation, to which Ms Kadeer was invited, announced its resignation from the event on Wednesday, citing Marriott’s treatment of her invitation.
A state department spokesman said: “We are very committed to continuing to advance human rights issues related to China, especially in the Uyghur community, and are disappointed that Marriott would choose to align itself politically.”
Beijing’s views of Ms Kadeer’s role have been heavily criticised.
In 1997, after trying to organise the Second Uyghur Uprising movement, she spent five years in detention.
Ms Kadeer founded the World Uyghur Congress in 1992 and began speaking out for Uyghur rights in 2005.
A 2016 documentary by the US National Endowment for Democracy showed her branded a “terrorist” and “spoiled daughter”.
Beijing accuses Ms Kadeer of creating the 1997 uprising that left hundreds dead in Xinjiang province.
But she has always denied being a political group’s figurehead.
She first arrived in the US in 1999 and has permanent residence in Florida.
China’s Foreign Ministry has denied that Ms Kadeer is politically linked and calls her a “political nuisance” and an “extremist”.