Activists urge athletes to speak out at Beijing Olympics

FILE - Human rights groups gather to launch their slogan calling for a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Human rights activists issued a call to action against the Beijing Olympics on Friday Jan. 28, 2022 imploring athletes and sponsors to speak out against what they call the

FILE – Human rights groups gather to launch their slogan calling for a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Human rights activists issued a call to action against the Beijing Olympics on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, imploring athletes and sponsors to speak out against what they call “genocide games”. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

PA

On Friday, human rights activists issued a call for action against the Beijing Olympics, imploring athletes and sponsors to speak out against what they call “genocide games”.

Speaking at an online press conference organized by human rights group Human Rights Watch, activists representing Chinese dissidents and Uyghur and Tibetan minorities urged international participants to voice their opposition to the organization of the Games by China, which will begin next week.

“The 2022 Winter Olympics will be remembered as the genocide games,” said Teng Biao, a former human rights activist in China who is now a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.

“The CCP’s purpose is exactly to turn the sports arena into a stage of political legitimacy and a tool to whitewash all these atrocities,” he added, referring to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

China’s crackdown under extremist leader Xi Jinping has been felt across broad swaths of society. Hong Kong authorities crushed anti-government protests in the city in 2019, and Beijing’s central government passed a national security law aimed at stifling dissent, leading to the arrest of activists and the disbanding of groups of civil society.

Meanwhile, in the country’s western region, Xinjiang, around 1 million or more people – mostly Uyghurs – have been confined to re-education camps in recent years, researchers say.

An independent, unofficial body set up by a prominent British lawyer to assess evidence of China’s alleged rights abuses against the Uyghur people concluded in December that the Chinese government had committed genocide. China has always denied any human rights violations in the region and said it has taken its actions to counter extremism in the region to ensure people’s safety.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin hit back at the rights group for its continued calls for a boycott of the Olympics, saying “the so-called human rights group is biased against China and wants to do stupid things. The lies and rumors he fabricated are unpopular. His blatant acts that harm the Olympic cause will never succeed.”

The Foreign Office also said the Olympics should not be politicized. Yet the competition is already facing a diplomatic boycott led by the United States, whose relations with China have crumbled in recent years.

Activists failed to achieve a full boycott of the games, but continued to speak out.

“Your silence is their strength. That’s what they want more than anything: for the world to respect China’s rules, for us to follow China’s example, to look away from these atrocities and these crimes in the name of the status quo,” said Lhadon Tethong, director of the Tibet Action Institute, at the press conference on Friday.

She directly called on athletes from the US, UK, France and others to speak.

“I personally believe that you should use your platform and your privilege and this historic opportunity. You must speak out against the wave of genocide,” she said.

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Associated Press video reporter Sam McNeil contributed reporting from Beijing.

Naomi C. Amerson