“Last Olympics didn’t reduce human rights violations in China, it increased them” – Human rights groups’ letter warns don’t award China another Olympics

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A joint letter was sent today to the International Olympics Committee calling on them to reject China’s bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, citing past claims that the 2008 Games would reduce China’s human rights violations contrasted with evidence that the 2008 Games actually increased human rights abuses in the Asian nation.

The letter, which was submitted one week before the Olympic committee makes its decision, was signed by the president of the World Uyghur Congress, the director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, the president of Initiatives for China and a former Tibetan political prisoner, jailed and tortured for actions related to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.

The letter states, “All of the people we represent have suffered as a result of the Chinese government’s contempt for human rights. We hope that you are aware by now that the 2008 Beijing Games did nothing to alleviate human rights abuses in China or enhance freedom.”

It notes that human rights in China are worse in 2015 than in 2001 when the 2008 Games were awarded to China, and cites several specific examples of abuses, including the mass jailing of human rights lawyers, the outlawing of some religious activities in China’s largely Muslim East Turkestan, forcing nomadic Mongols from their grazing lands, and ongoing ruthlessness in dealing with Tibetans.

Read more: Under Xi Jinping, repression in China has increased – Freedom House Report

The letter warns the Olympic committee not to make the same mistake it made last time, when the IOC expected awarding Beijing the Games would improve human rights in China.

“The reality is that the 2008 Beijing Olympics left a trail of human rights abuses directly linked to the Games,” the letter asserts, citing Human Rights Watch’s 2008 report on the Beijing Games, which documents some of the abuses.

The letter also references the Olympic spirit, which, as other human rights groups representatives have pointed out, expressly requires safeguarding the dignity of the individual as a requirement of Olympism, and questions how allowing the Games to become a part of human rights violations will reflect on the Olympics.

Read more: China can’t host Olympics, fails Olympic Charter, rights groups say

“Until the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are prepared to reform and recognize the inherent rights of all people, they should not be awarded the honour of another Olympics,” the letter states. “The IOC must recognise that the Olympic spirit and the reputation of the Olympic Games will suffer further damage if the worsening human rights crisis in China is simply ignored.”

The conclusion of the letter is a warning: “[T]he Games returning to Beijing will be a green light for the government’s ongoing abuse of their rights and denial of their hopes for freedom.”

With days to go, human rights groups question whether China should be awarded another Olympic Games

Olympic Games
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The International Olympic Committee will make its decision about which nation will host the 2022 Games July 31, and rights groups are questioning — and petitioning — the committee about China’s bid, referring to China’s ongoing human rights abuses and claims the committee made last time around that awarding China the Games would improve human rights in the Asian nation.

Awarding China again, rights groups like Free Tibet say, would in effect be supporting China’s human rights abuses.

“Giving the Games to Beijing again when we know it won’t alter their policies is sending the message to China that their human rights abuses are no obstacle to prestige on the world stage,” Alistair Currie, Campaigns and Media Manager at Free Tibet, told The Speaker.

Read more: Repression in China has increased – Freedom House Report

Alistair Currie
Alistair Currie

“The human rights situation in China and Tibet is getting worse not better — within the last week China has been jailing Chinese human rights lawyers in large numbers, for instance.

“Unlike in 2001, when China was an unknown quantity when it came to the Olympics, we now know how it responds to being awarded them. The IOC had hopes that the award may improve human rights in China. In reality, it did no such thing. Continued repression in China culminated in the brutal suppression of the March 2008 Uprising in Tibet, just a few months before the Games.

Read more: Sentencing of Christians in China increases 10,000% in less than a decade, rights group reports

“China is far more confident on the world stage than it was 14 years ago but is on a backwards path when it comes to respect for human and civil rights. Now couldn’t be a worse time for giving China a gift like the Olympics Games.”

“Unlike in 2001, when China was an unknown quantity when it came to the Olympics, we now know how it responds to being awarded them.”

Currie elaborated on a focal area of ongoing human rights abuses in China, Tibet:

“In Tibet now, Tibetans face more intensive surveillance than ever before and China will use any indication of Tibetan pride and resistance to Beijing’s policies as a pretext for repression — including arbitrary detention and punitive sentences. Tibetans can be imprisoned for simply singing a song or peacefully protesting to protect their environment. Entire communities can be punished for the acts of one person and China doesn’t hesitate to use force — just last week, they fired upon a demonstration, leading to 25 people being admitted to hospital. China’s grip on Tibet is tightening. What we know for sure is that Tibetans will continue to resist China’s rule — and that means things could be worse by 2022.”

In addition to an online petition that has reached almost 10,000 signatures, Free Tibet recently joined 174 other rights groups and communicated with the Olympic Committee to question the propriety of awarding China another Olympics. Currie referred to the return letter from the IOC, in which the Olympic board stated, “Choosing the host city of the Olympic Games does not mean that the IOC necessarily agrees with the political and/or the legal system in the host country.”

“We must acknowledge that we have neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country,” the letter continued. “The IOC is neither a world government, nor a superior world parliament.”

However, Currie noted recent changes in Olympic policy following the Sochi Games in Russia last year. He also commented on a distinction he saw between the two 2022 candidates — both of which raise questions about human rights abuses and Olympic hosting rights.

“Now couldn’t be a worse time for giving China a gift like the Olympics Games.”

“Interestingly, they do say they should be aware of the “political implications” of their choice but the remainder of the letter suggests that that level of “consideration” is very limited. After Sochi, the IOC introduced measures in the Host City contracts to ensure no discrimination or, for instance, environmental destruction accompanies the Games themselves. These requirements don’t apply to the political system overall, however.

“The IOC is trying to insulate itself from any criticism or fallout from giving the Games to countries with political and human rights problems and there’s no surprise in that when both candidates for 2022 – Beijing and Almaty – fall into that category. One distinction with Almaty, however, is that it’s a small country and it remains possible that the award of the Games may bring about some positive change. That may not be the case of course, but in Beijing’s case, we know it won’t bring about positive change.”