Beijing Olympics 2022
Just six months after the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, all eyes turned toward China for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Just as in 2008, the Communist Party of China has continued its legacy of sportswashing – using the Games to distract from its major human rights abuses strengthen the perception of the Party’s validity, power and trust on the world stage.
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Human Rights Abuses in China
Crimes Against Humanity in Xinjiang
The Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the region of Xinjiang, including mass arbitrary detention, torture, mass surveillance, cultural and religious erasure, separation of families, forced labour, sexual violence and violations of reproductive rights.
Repression of Freedom in Hong Kong and Tibet
Since 2020, Beijing has increased its efforts to crush human rights in Hong Kong, including jailing legislators and journalists and devastating press and other freedoms. A particular tipping point was the closing of Apple Daily in June 2021, following the arrest of staff and freezing of assets by national security police, which Amnesty International called “the blackest day for media freedom in Hong Kong’s recent history.” In Tibet, the Party has continued to increase efforts to subjugate Tibetan identity and repress religious freedom in Tibet.
Failed Response to Covid-19
Chinese authorities initially covered up news about Covid-19 and the deaths of Chinese health workers and then surveilled and harassed families of those who died of the virus. Beijing’s silencing of human rights defenders, journalists and activists, and restrictions on the internet also make it difficult to obtain accurate and timely information about health conditions and what is actually happening in the country. Additionally, the Olympic smartphone app used for daily Covid-19 monitoring (My2022) included a list of censorship keywords and failed to meet adequate standards for encryption.
Silencing Activists and Athletes
China has a long history of silencing human rights defenders and anyone who speaks out against the Party. This kind of repression extends to athletes as well. In November of 2021, tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared for three weeks after raising a complaint of sexual assault against one of the Party’s former top officials. She later resurfaced and recanted, most likely after facing pressure or threats from the Chinese government, with the aid of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Gaps in the IOC’s Human Rights Protections for Beijing
Although human rights groups and trade unions have been calling out the IOC to include a “Principle 8 of Olympism”, the Olympic Charter still does not contain any language regarding the need to respect human rights. The Host City Contract for Beijing, which determines the rules and responsibilities of the host city for a particular Olympics, contained no mention of human rights.
Another concerning policy of the IOC is Rule 50, which punishes athletes for asserting their right to free expression and protest on the podium. Though the IOC relaxed a complete ban on athlete protest ahead of Tokyo 2020, the rule remains in place – repressing free speech and signaling alignment with rights-abusing countries like China or Belarus, whose athletes cannot even criticize coaches without fear of retaliation by their national governments.
The IOC Must Act Now
Through public pressure, we have made great strides toward embedding human rights in the world of sport over the last decade. Beijing 2022 is no different. Billions of fans turned their eyes, voices and hearts not only to the athletes competing in China, but also to the thousands of people suffering at the hand of its government – Peng Shuai, the Uyghurs and ethnic minorities, and the activists and journalists who uphold the truth. The IOC must act now to ensure the human rights catastrophe of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics never happens again.
“Increasingly, fans are saying that they don’t want to sit in a stadium that workers died to build, and they don’t want to buy clothes or products that may have been made with forced labour. FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, has adopted a human rights policy because of this global pressure. This means that the public has an incredible voice to demand reforms. These Olympics and Paralympics in China are a rare chance to do just that.” – Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch
Join this movement today by signing the petition to call for the release of Xinjiang detainees.
Explore the following resources to learn more about China’s human rights abuses and the Olympic Games in Beijing – and stay tuned for upcoming campaigns and more ways to take action.
- Beijing: Letter to IOC President Requests Urgent Human Rights Reform
- China: Olympian’s Gold Medal Gesture Sets Example to Governments Everywhere
- China: Censorship Mars Beijing Olympics
- China: IOC Can’t Ensure Olympic Apparel Is Abuse-Free
- Peng Shuai: International Olympic Committee should center its responsibility to protect athletes
- Olympics: Protect Peng Shuai
- World Players: IOC’s Call with Peng Shuai Exacerbates Alarm, Special Delegation Needed
- Olympics: Don’t Promote Chinese State Propaganda
- China: Olympics Sponsors in Spotlight as Games Loom
- China’s Olympic Press Freedom Pledges: Worthless in 2008, Absent in 2022
- Higher, Faster – Harsher: The Olympics Head to Beijing
- “Break their Lineage, Break their Roots”: China’s Crimes against Humanity Targeting Uyghurs and Other Turkic Muslims
- China: “Like We Were Enemies in a War”: China’s Mass Internment, Torture, and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang
- Hong Kong: National Security Law has Created a Human Rights Emergency
- UN: Growing International Concern Must Translate into Concrete Action over China’s Crimes Against Humanity in Xinjiang
- China: Tibetan Monk Jailed for Online Messages: Rinchen Tsultrim