Affected communities present International Olympic Committee officials with evidence of China’s extreme human rights abuses, and urge the Beijing 2022 Games be moved

Press Release– For immediate release
6 October 2020
CONTACTS:

Dorjee Tseten, Students for a Free Tibet, +1 646-753-3889

Frances Hui, We The Hongkongers, +1 425-245-4818

Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network, +44 (0)7748158618

Zumretay Arkin, World Uyghur Congress, +4917661619262

Teng Biao, Humanitarian China/China Against the Death Penalty, +1617-396-6099

Today a cross-movement coalition, representing Tibetan, Uyghur, Hongkonger, and Chinese Democracy groups, were invited to their first meeting with International Olympic Committee (IOC) representatives since 2002. [1][2] Activists joined to discuss the ongoing serious human rights violations facing those living under Chinese rule and to reiterate the call for the Committee to reverse its decision to award China the 2022 Winter Games.

IOC officials including Juan Antonio Samaranch, Beijing 2022 Coordination Commission Chair, heard first-hand testimony about the current severe abuses across all areas under Chinese Communist Party rule including occupied Tibet, East Turkistan, China, and Hong Kong. Testimony included the recent report of at least half a million Tibetans coerced into military-style labour programmes designed to strip Tibetan farmers and nomads of their traditional livelihoods, promote widespread political re-education, and increase surveillance; [3] the ongoing atrocities that are occurring in East Turkistan, from the mass internment of millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples to forced labour and forced sterilisations; [4] the recent demolition of ‘One Country Two Systems’ in Hong Kong that breach multiple international laws and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, [5] and the detention, disappearance, and death of countless Chinese lawyers, feminists, democracy activists, and anyone else deemed a threat by the Chinese Communist Party. [6] 

The IOC was clearly moved by the testimony presented and welcomed the opportunity to speak to those directly affected by China’s human rights abuses. They further relayed how the IOC’s aim is to be “a force for good” and to “leave the [Host] city in better shape”; an aim that the activists believe, judging by the sharp decline in human rights before and after the 2008 Olympic Games, will not be achieved at the Beijing’s 2022 Winter Games without considerable intervention. [7]

Mandie Mckeown, International Tibet Network, said: “The Beijing 2022 Games are just over a year away and, though we appreciate the opportunity to meet with the IOC now, it is hugely regretful that it has taken 18 years for the Committee to hear this first-hand evidence. But it isn’t too late for the IOC to be honest about China’s failure to commit to the Olympic Charter’s goal of respecting “universal fundamental ethical principles” and to start the process of moving the Games to another Host City.”  

Dorjee Tseten, of Students for a Free Tibet, said: “I am truly disappointed with the IOC’s response. The Olympics should be a celebration of cultural diversity, but what China is doing is cultural genocide. The IOC should abide by the Olympic Charter’s core principles about “human dignity” and use its global influence for humanity, not against humanity. Hosting the Olympics in China at this time when there are millions of people incarcerated is tantamount to the IOC giving China approval of these crimes.”

Frances Hui, We The Hongkongers, said: “Twelve years after the 2008 Olympic Games, Hongkongers are living under oppression and tremendous fear for their safety in everyday life and, therefore, it is time for the IOC to take our calls seriously. The IOC is meant to be an organisation dedicated to furthering the dreams and aspirations of young people, but what about those of the youth of Hong Kong, East Turkistan, and Tibet? As a youth in my twenties, I myself am unable to return to my home, for risk of arrest.  If the Committee wants to be a “force for good,” it must take responsibility to ensure they are not enabling China’s complete disregard for international laws.

Teng Biao, Chinese Human Rights Lawyer, said: “Not only did the Chinese government violate human rights during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, but also because of it. Since then, and especially since 2015, the human rights situation has dramatically deteriorated. Giving the honor of hosting the Olympic Games to such a renowned dictatorial regime, not once, but twice, will bring immense disgrace upon the IOC, shattering the dream of the ‘Olympic Spirit’, and displaying a total contempt for universal human rights.”

Zumretay Arkin, World Uyghur Congress, said: “Hosting the Winter Games 2022 in Beijing is a regrettable decision from the IOC because it will be taking place in a country that is committing genocide. This is a huge reputational risk for the Committee and it undermines the core Olympics values. There is growing discontent from both governments and cross-party parliamentarians [8][9], and a number of high-level officials have also joined the #NoRightsNoGames movement. [10] If Olympic sponsors, governments, and other actors join our call, it will be too late for the IOC to save its reputation.” 

The activist coalition went on to question the IOC about their continuing legitimisation of the Beijing 2022 Games given the catalogue of evidence of the abuses and sought answers as to what measures are being taken to ensure China adheres to the ‘written assurances’ and the Olympic Charter goal of promoting “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles” and “preservation of human dignity”. [11]

Officials responded that they are open to continuing a dialogue with frontline community representatives, one that they have had until now with other international human rights organisations and that they will “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to considering issues that are brought to their attention, including human rights.

Yet despite these assurances and the IOC engagement in this dialogue, which is strongly welcomed by the cross-movement coalition, representatives appeared reluctant to admit to failures to hold Beijing accountable in 2008 for the serious rise in human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party, in the lead up to, and during, the 2008 Games, or provide adequate information about how they are monitoring Beijing’s adherence to the written assurances and the Olympic Charter. 

-ends-

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  1. Representatives from International Tibet Network (https://tibetnetwork.org/), Students for a Free Tibet (https://studentsforafreetibet.org/), World Uyghur Congress (https://www.uyghurcongress.org/en/), WeTheHongkongers (https://www.wethehongkongers.org/) and Chinese Human Rights Lawyer, Teng Biao (https://tengbiao.wordpress.com/) joined the meeting on behalf of over 160 cross-movement groups who signed the joint letter – see below. 
  2. A joint letter was delivered to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, Thomas Bach, on 8 September 2020: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N_vFXoYllU59CgMz8j8PCV5RngjWi91CLBXza719tTs/. Images of he letter delivery available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Dqdhc8X6y7GLnyXgc9GfPDELpqJzY4Oz/
  3. TIBET: New findings by Adrian Zenz and Reuters document ‘military style’ ‘vocational training’ and workforce transfer programme in Tibet that adopts methods deployed in relation to Uyghurs, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1n0IRn7Si_DTkxWQxC_S08IDz3cfQ5sfH/view?usp=sharing Tibet is one of the most heavily-restricted countries in the world. In March 2020 Freedom House ranked Tibet as the 2nd ‘least free’ place in the world for the fifth consecutive year; only Syria ranks as less free: https://freedomhouse.org/country/tibet/freedom-world/2020
  4. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews the report of China https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23452&LangID=E
  5. https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25487
  6. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/global
  7. Beijing 2022: Another Gold for Human Rights Abuse? https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hKcRiyHyrY7vc-8x8yhrmmViraf5hEGe/
  8. https://twitter.com/patrickwintour/status/1313495631206506503
  9. https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1097556/duncan-smith-ioc-beijing-2022-china
  10. https://www.norightsnogames.org/
  11. https://stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/General/EN-Olympic-Charter.pdf