Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Human rights groups ask IOC to move Olympics from China

Published:Wednesday | September 9, 2020 | 9:08 AM
Visitors to Chongli, one of the venues for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, past by the Olympics logo in Chongli in northern China's Hebei Province on Thursday, August 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

TOKYO (AP) — China’s repression in Tibet, the status of the exiled Dalai Lama and its treatment of ethnic minorities spurred violent protests ahead of Beijing’s 2008 Olympics.

It could happen again.

Beijing is to host the 2022 Winter Olympics with rumblings of a boycott and calls to move the games because of alleged human rights violations.

A coalition of human rights groups delivered that demand to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach ahead of the body’s executive board meeting in Switzerland on Wednesday.

In a letter, the group asked the IOC to “reverse its mistake in awarding Beijing the honour of hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 2022.”

The letter said that the 2008 Olympics had failed to improve China’s human rights record, and that since then, it has built “an Orwellian surveillance network” in Tibet and incarcerated more than a million Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group, in the Xinjiang region. It listed a litany of other alleged abuses from Hong Kong to the Inner Mongolia region, as well as the intimidation of Taiwan.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused the groups of trying to politicise sports, which he said is against the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

China has repeatedly denied human rights abuses. It at first said the camps for Uighurs didn’t exist and then said they were job training centers to combat terrorism.

“Through vocational education and training, Xinjiang has taken preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation measures, effectively contained the once frequent terrorist activities, and protected the right to life, health and development of all ethnic groups,” another spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said last week.

“Over the past four years there hasn’t been a single terrorist attack in Xinjiang.”

The IOC argued the 2008 Olympics would transform China and improve its human rights record. Instead, they are often compared to Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics; an authoritarian state using the games as a stage.

A Washington Post editorial this month suggested China should lose the Olympics.

“The world must ask whether China, slowly strangling an entire people, has the moral standing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics,” it said. “We think not.”

These are precarious times for the Swiss-based IOC. Its finances — and those of 200 national Olympic committees and dozens of Olympic-related sports federations — have been shaken by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021 because of COVID-19.

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