Human-rights groups accusing China
of human-rights violations against minorities are calling for a full boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics
in Beijing, putting additional pressure on the International Olympic Committee
, athletes, sponsors, and sports
A coalition of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kong residents, and others issued a statement Monday calling for the boycott, rejecting less drastic measures such as "diplomatic boycotts" and further talks with the IOC or China.
“The time for talking with the IOC is over,” Tibet Action Institute’s Lhadon Tethong told The Associated Press
in an exclusive interview. “This cannot be games as usual or business
as usual; not for the IOC and not for the international community.”
The Beijing Games are scheduled to begin on February 4, 2022, just six months after the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which have been postponed.
Rights groups have met with the IOC several times in the last year, requesting that the games be removed from China; Zumretay Arkin of the World Uyghur Congress
was a key participant in those discussions.
Tethong was arrested and deported from China in 2007, a year before the Beijing Summer Olympics, for spearheading a pro-Tibetan campaign.
“The situation now is demonstrably worse than it was then,” Tethong said, noting that the IOC stated that the 2008 Olympics would improve human rights
in China. “If the games go ahead, then Beijing gets the international seal of approval for what they are doing.”
The boycott push comes a day before a joint hearing in the United States Congress on the Beijing Olympics and China's human-rights record, and just days after the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee said boycotts are ineffective and only harm athletes.
have worked in good faith to engage with the IOC to have them understand the issues directly from the mouths of those most impacted — the Uyghurs at the top of that list, as well as Tibetans and others,” Tethong said. “It’s clear the IOC is completely uninterested in what the real impacts on the ground are for people.”
The IOC has repeatedly stated that it must be “neutral” and stay out of politics
. The Switzerland-based body
is essentially a sports business, generating approximately 75% of its revenue from selling broadcast rights and an additional 18% from sponsors. It also has UN observer status.
“We are not a global government,” IOC President Thomas Bach recently stated.
China's foreign ministry has criticized "sports politicization" and declared that any boycott is "doomed to fail." China has denied allegations of genocide against the Uyghur people.
According to a recent US State Department report, “genocide and crimes against humanity” against Muslim
Uyghurs and other minorities in the western region of Xinjiang have occurred in the last year.
Tethong acknowledged that some athletes may be opposed, but she believes that others who gained traction as a result of the Black Lives Matter
movement will become allies, referring to this as a “gloves-off” moment.
“Of course, there are many people who are concerned about the athletes and their lifelong work,” Tethong said, “but in the end, it is the IOC that has put them in this position and should be held accountable.”
In a recent interview with CNN
, American skier Mikaela Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, described the dilemma for athletes.
“You certainly don’t want to be forced to choose between human rights like morality and the ability to do your job,” she said.
Tethong suggested that coalition members lobby the IOC's top 15 sponsors, American network NBC
, which generates roughly 40% of all IOC revenue, sports federations, civil society organizations, and "anyone who will listen."
Activists have already focused their efforts on IOC sponsor Airbnb.
“First, there is the moral question,” Tethong said. “Is it acceptable to host an international goodwill sporting event like the Olympic Games while the host nation is committing genocide just beyond the stands?”
Activists say they asked for documents containing "assurances" from China about human rights conditions during meetings with the IOC, but the IOC has not produced them.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) included human rights requirements in the host city contract for the 2024 Paris Olympics several years ago, but it did not include those guidelines — the United Nations
Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights — for Beijing. Paris is the first Olympics to include the standards, which have long been pushed for by human rights groups.
Last week, human rights organizations and Western nations led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany
accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unrestricted access for United Nations experts.
During the meeting, Britain's UN Ambassador, Barbara Woodward, described the situation in Xinjiang as "one of the worst human rights crises of our time."
“The evidence points to a program of repression of specific ethnic groups,” Woodward said, adding that “religious expressions have been criminalized, and Uyghur language and culture are discriminated against on a large scale.”