The Olympic Games—Political Games?

World Uyghur Congress
June 16, 2008
Tel: +49 89 54321999, Fax: +49 89 54349789, contact@uyghurcongress.org

The Olympic Games—Political Games?

Munich: When it won the Olympic bid in 2001, China promised to improve its human rights record. Unfortunately, with less than two months to go before the Beijing Olympics begin, no substantial progress and developments in the human rights situation in China have ever been made to date. Obviously, the breach of China’s promise contradicts the fundamental idea of the Olympic Games as expressed in the motto “peace, friendship and solidarity.” Although China has tried to disassociate its human rights and international policies from its Olympic hosting duties, it has used the Olympic Games as a political opportunity to show off its image of a more united, prosperous and powerful country on earth.

In the run up to the Olympic Games, the Chinese government has stepped up its heavy-handed policies to suppress the resistance of Uyghurs against Chinese rule, no matter how peaceful it is. Uyghurs are still living in a culture of fear, facing persecution, marginalization and assimilation that erode the very core of cultural identity, religious belief and economic rights of Uyghurs. Meanwhile, China is deceitfully playing the “terrorism” scare card by provoking the threat of ETIM—a shadowy organization hard to define—during the Beijing Summer Olympics in order to justify its pre-emptive strike against any form of political activities of Uyghurs before and after the Olympic Games. Although Chinese officials have placed tremendous emphasis on the threat of “terrorism” targeted against the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there is no compelling evidence either from foreign governments’ or Chinese sources to justify such a claim.

On the occasion of the impending arrival of the Olympic Torch in East Turkestan (as known Xinjiang Uyghur Autonom Region), Chinese authorities are trying to use this event to conceal the widespread discontentment of Uyghurs with the totalitarian Chinese regime by creating a false atmosphere of “harmonious society” and to mislead the world community about continued, massive and systematic violations of human rights in East Turkestan. The World Uyghur Congress has recently learned that authorities have closely monitored all activities of Uyghurs carried out on the occasion of the Olympic Torch Relay in East Turkestan.

On 17 June, the Olympic Torch will be in East Turkestan. Originally, the date of the Olympic Torch Relay in East Turkestan was scheduled on 25 June 2008 as published on the official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games (http://torchrelay.beijing2008.cn/en/). However, the date of the Olympic Torch Relay in East Turkestan is suddenly changed on June 15 from 25 June to 17 June without the Chinese government giving any further explanation. The World Uyghur Congress believes that the surreptitious change of the date is due to the leaking out of confidential information about the upcoming demonstration being planned by the World Uyghur Congress to be held on 25 June as a parallel, indeed counter, event to the Olympic Torch Relay on 25 June in East Turkestan as it was initially scheduled by the Organizing Committee for the Beijing Olympics. It is, without doubt, a deliberate and tactical decision by Chinese authorities to disrupt the symbolic effect of the worldwide protest of Uyghurs against China’s serial human rights abusing autocracies in the same day of the Olympic Torch Relay in East Turkestan. Evidently, by changing the date of the Olympic Games Torch Relay, China is playing political games with the world community in order to play for time.

Essentially, the Olympic Torch Relay would represent an important dimension in the history of the Olympic Games to spread the Olympic principles throughout the world, thereby creating international goodwill.. However, the Chinese government is starting to prevent the Olympic flame symbolizing the endeavour to perfection and struggle for victory from lighting up the darkest corners of East Turkestan where Uyghurs remain subjected to human rights abuses on a massive scale. The passage of the Olympic Torch in East Turkestan would be a great event for the Chinese government to showcase its economic achievements, but for Uyghurs it would be a precious opportunity to appeal to the conscience of the whole world to realize the unity of the Olympic ideals and human rights in a country—China—where it is severely denied, and to listen to the suffering of Uyghurs.
Despite the change of the date of the Olympic Torch Relay in East Turkestan, the World Uyghur Congress is still planning to hold a mass demonstration on 25 June called the “Freedom Torch Relay” in front of the European Council in Brussels and in other parts of the world in order to

–give voice to the forcefully silenced people, Uyghurs, in East Turkestan who are denied their legal, cultural and economic rights, and suffer from a growing sense of cultural dilution, economic exploitation, and religious discrimination;

–strongly condemn the assimilation policy of the PRC systematically targeted against Uyghurs as a unique people;

–call for the European Union and all European countries to use every opportunity to put strong pressure upon the government of the PRC to end its repressive treatment of Uyghurs;

–urge EU leaders to boycott the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing unless China makes any substantial effort to improve its human rights record.