Rights Activists Urge Boycotting of Beijing Winter Olympic Games As Protests Continue

Human rights activists are calling for broadcasters, sponsors, participants, and governments worldwide to boycott the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games due to China’s treatment of over two million Uyghur, Uzbek, and Kazakh Muslims, its crackdown on protests, and the “geopolitical bullying” towards Tibet and Taiwan.

Protests are already unfolding before the world’s eyes, with activists having waved a Tibet flag and banner stating “No Genocide Games” from inside the temple of Hera during the flame lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece on Monday. The two activists, who are part of the group ‘Students for a Free Tibet,’ were arrested and have since been released.

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Groups such as ‘Students for a Free Tibet’ are a part of the ‘No Beijing 2022’ campaign that’s fighting to stop the allowance of Beijing’s games, which consists of Chinese, Hong Kong, Uyghur, Tibet, South Mongolian, and Taiwanese activists.

During his speech at the ceremony, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach commented that the Olympics must remain “politically neutral ground.” Bach also stated that while the games cannot fix ongoing worldwide problems, they can “set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another.”

Bach’s sentiments have already been previously echoed by other members of the IOC. According to the South China Morning Post, IOC Vice President John Coates told reporters that the IOC’s remit only concerns the “Olympic movement.”

“We have no ability to go into a country and tell them what to do. All we can do is to award the Olympics to a country, under conditions set out in a host contract … and then ensure they are followed.”

Coates was also asked why the IOC would assist in helping Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, but not interfere in this situation. Coates said that the 100 members the IOC helped to leave the country were part of the “Olympic community.”

In a statement, International Tibet Network’s executive director Mandie McKeown called out the hypocrisy of the IOC and stated how wrong it is for the Committee to be handing the torch to a country whose “ideals are so far removed” from that of the Olympics.

In April, USA Today reported that the U.S. formally accused China of committing genocides and crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people. A State Department report found China engaged in “mass detention” of the Uyghurs in prison and camps, along with evidence of sterilized rape, torture, and forced labor.

In response, China claimed the genocide was fabrication of western researchers and biased media outlets while also condemning the U.S. for meddling in international affairs. China has also stated their actions toward Uyghurs is considered to be “re-educating” due to extremists in the group, and that the camps are “vocational centers.”

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Despite the U.S. having issued previous sanctions against Chinese officials while threatening to ban Chinese imports that were made from Uyghur forced labor, there have been no indications that the country, or any others, plan to exit or boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Numerous geopolitical issues have worked their way into the Olympic games throughout history. In 1980, dozens of countries, led by the U.S., boycotted the Moscow Olympics due to Soviet Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. Boycotts by various countries also occurred in 1976, 1972, and 1968.

This also isn’t the first time China specifically has been called out by activists during the world games. CNN noted that human rights protests also occurred during the lighting ceremony back in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Winter Olympics will be held from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20 in China’s capitol. It will be the first time a city has hosted both the summer and winter games. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only Chinese residents will be allowed to spectate the events.