More than 160 human rights organisations have called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to allow the 2022 Winter Olympics to take place in China. They did so in a joint letter, which they offered before the board meeting of the IOC on Wednesday afternoon.
“We ask the IOC to review their mistake of awarding the Winter Olympics to Beijing in 2022,” the organizations write. “The IOC must understand that the reputation of the Olympics is at stake if it continues to ignore the human rights crisis in all areas under China’s control.”
The organisations are referring to the oppression of Tibetans and the Islamic Uighur minority by the Chinese government. They also point to China’s increasing influence in Hong Kong and the controversial security law introduced there to suppress protests.
With the letter they say they want to prevent the mistakes the IOC has made in the past. “Despite previous appeals from organizations, the IOC does not respond to the protection of human rights,” says the group.
The letter also stresses the ‘naivety of the IOC’ with regard to the 2008 Summer Olympics. Beijing was the backdrop for the Games at that time as well, and in the run-up to that edition a worldwide protest arose. Among others from journalists who wanted more freedom of the press.
The IOC claimed at the time that the Games would change the way China dealt with human rights. But Amnesty International concluded otherwise. “The crackdown on activists has not diminished, but increased with the arrival of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.”
The firm conclusions had little effect. The Games were held and there seems to be no doubt about the passage of the 2022 event in Beijing. The IOC did not react to the letter and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs says in a reaction that “sport is being turned into a political issue and that goes against Olympic thinking”.
Human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have repeatedly in the past called for clear agreements when allocating the Games to a country.
As a result, new guidelines were drawn up in 2018 stipulating that the global sporting event should not be organised in a country where human rights are under pressure.
However, the guidelines only apply to the Games to be held from 2024 onwards.