Almost exactly one year from now, the 2022 Winter Olympics are expected to kick off in Beijing. There are, however, growing calls for a boycott of the games due to the human rights situation in China.
A group of 180 organisations concerned with human rights in Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Hongkong has just published a letter calling on state governments to boycott the games.
In the letter they say that China has long committed human rights abuses such as the detainment of political priosners in Tibet, the forced internment and forced labour of Uighur people in Xinjang, the crackdown on civil liberties in Hongkong as well as cracking down on minorities using their own languages in Southern Mongolia.
The NGO Human Rights Watch did not go as far as calling for a boycott, however in another letter to the IOC president Thomas Bach they called on the IOC to “explain its efforts to manage human rights risks connected to the Games by February 2021.”
Approached by The Lens for comment, the IOC said that they previously had consulted with human rights organisations and raised their concerns with national and local authorities in China and that they “received assurances that the principles of the Olympic Charter will be respected in the context of the Games.“
However, they did not clarify what those assurances look like.
In public statements on their website, the IOC does not mention any references to human rights concerns in the context of Beijing 2022, instead praising the organising committee for their success in going ahead with planning despite the Covid-19 Pandemic.
They further stated that the organisation of the games is completely indepedent from politics. “The Olympic Games are governed by the IOC, not by governments. […] The host country’s head of state is allowed to say only one sentence, scripted by the IOC, to officially open the Games. No other politician is allowed to play any role whatsoever, not even during medal ceremonies.“
However, this can be seen critically as the Chinese Olympic Committee is quite openly connected to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.
The COCs president Gou Zhongwen for example is at the same time director of the General Administration of Sports, which is an agency directly subordinate to the Chinese government, or State Council.
This is not the first time a major sporting event has caused controversy. The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics had faced similar criticism and the 2022 FIFA Worldcup in Qatar has come under scrutiny regarding the working conditions under which its venues have been constructed.
The Lens contacted the Beijing2022 organising commitee as well as the National Olympic Commitees of the Netherlands, the US, Germany, Austria and Switzerland for comments. However we did not receive any answer by the time this article was published.