Olympic Officials Dismissed Beijing Human Rights Concerns

Last fall, the International Olympic Committee hosted a video conference with activists calling for Beijing to oust the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics. Chinese government.

“You, ladies and gentlemen, have your own responsibilities,” replied Juan Antonio Samaranch, chairman of the ILO Coordinating Committee for the upcoming Winter Games, according to modern BuzzFeed News notes. “We have our own.”

Activists noted the mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang, the crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong and the ongoing crackdown in Tibet. However, IOC officials declined to comment, claiming that the 2008 Beijing Olympics had led to better air quality and public transport, according to notes and interviews with several activists involved.

Calling the Olympics “genocide,” dozens of human rights groups urged the IOC to move the games to another country, with some comparing the upcoming competition to that held in Nazi Germany in 1936. The United States and Canada publicly called on China treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang a genocide.

In response to a detailed list of questions for this article, the ILO stated that it takes into account the views of NGOs on issues, including human rights for the Beijing Games. The committee said it raised these issues with the government and local authorities, who assured that they would respect the Olympic Charter.

“Given the different participation in the Olympic Games, the ILO must remain neutral in all global political issues,” the ILO said in an email. “The awarding of the Olympic Games to a National Olympic Committee does not mean that the ILO agrees with the political structure, social conditions or human rights standards in its country.”

The IOC adheres to the human rights principles outlined in the Olympic Charter, he said, and “takes this responsibility very seriously.”

“At the same time,” he said, “the ILO has neither the mandate nor the ability to change the laws or political system of a sovereign country. This must rightly remain the legitimate role of governments and their respective intergovernmental organizations. “

The IOC has repeatedly stressed its neutrality in answering questions about the ethics of conducting games in China. But in the private video call on October 6, 2020, ILO officials went further.

The call, which lasted more than an hour and was attended by a group of six activists and five IOC officials, started hopefully but ended in pressure, according to some of the activists in the call.

Officials said the Olympics could be a catalyst for better infrastructure. They pointed to the 2008 Summer Olympics, arguing that when Beijing hosted that year, it caused improvements in infrastructure and air quality.

“They still have air quality problems, but for the first time they mentioned that the blue sky is called ‘Olympic Blue’ because… it was the first time they could see the blue air in Beijing,” an official said, according to the notes.

Teng Biao, one of China’s best-known human rights lawyers, has been summoned. He told BuzzFeed News that he was not impressed.

“It is very difficult to defend the Chinese government in terms of human rights or the rule of law,” Teng told BuzzFeed News. “So they can find something like environmental policies.”

“The resumption of the Beijing Olympics can be seen as support for the CCP atrocities, including the Uyghur genocide,” he said.

Teng lived in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics and said that, like other human rights lawyers, he was banned from traveling, detained and tortured while in police custody before the Games. He said he told officials his experience showed that hosting the Beijing Olympics could hurt. The police could not be reached for comment. But IOC officials seemed indifferent, Tang said.

Samaranch, chairman of the ILO Steering Committee, said during the call that games are “an excellent force for good”, uniting people of different races and religions, and even political systems, ladies and gentlemen, and even political systems. “, According to the notes seen by BuzzFeed news.

“People live under many political systems,” he added. “We can not say and support one or the other.”

Zumretay Arkin, program and defense director at the Uyghur World Congress, told IOC officials that relatives were missing in Xinjiang. She said officials said she was sorry to hear that, but the world is a complicated place – a memory echoed by notes as well as by other activists present at the meeting.

Arkin told BuzzFeed News that she strongly disagreed with IOC officials. “Everything has gotten worse since 2008,” he said. “We have a complete genocide, we have people in concentration camps and you tell us that the situation has not worsened?”

“We are suffering from these policies,” he added. “You would never think of hosting the games in North Korea or anywhere else. Why is China different? “

Dorje Cheten, executive director of Students for Free Tibet, said he told officials that he and others had risked retaliation for themselves and their families for publicly protesting the ILO decision. He also noted that many Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans have been arrested or killed during the government’s decade-long campaign. Violent protests erupted in Tibet before the 2008 Games, when the IOC president said the protests were a “crisis” for the organization. But video calling officials did not appear to care, Tseten said.

“I was shocked,” he said. “How can I explain cold faces? They did not even recognize the pain. “

Arkin, Teng and Tseten said talks with the ILO had continued since October, including a second call this month, but Arkin said nothing substantial had changed. Politicians in the United States and Europe, including former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nicki Haley, have called on governments in recent months to boycott the games. Critics say it could punish athletes unjustly. But activists say they see diplomatic boycotts as their only option, as the IOC is unlikely to move the games.

Human rights groups are also seeking to pressure companies such as Airbnb to cut ties with the 2022 Games.

Tseten and others who took part in demonstrations that led to the 2008 Games say China’s repression of democracy in Hong Kong and the abuses in Xinjiang mean it is even less defensive this time around.

“We told them in the end that it would be genocide games,” Tseten said. “And in history, the ILO will be reduced as part of that.”

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