Athletes Who Protest Winter Olympics ‘Risk Punishment’, Beijing Official Suggests | Winter Olympics 2022

Any athlete behavior contrary to the Olympic spirit or Chinese rules or laws will be subject to “certain penalties”, a Beijing 2022 official said in response to a question about the possibility of athlete protests at the Olympics. winter next month.

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It comes shortly after human rights campaigners told athletes they had better remain silent for the duration of the Games and amid concerns over the online security of participant data contained in a mandatory phone application.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Yang Shu, deputy director of international relations for the Beijing organizing committee, said athletes could face cancellation of accreditation or other “certain sanctions”. .

“Any expression in keeping with the Olympic spirit, I’m sure, will be protected,” Yang said. “Any behavior or speech contrary to the Olympic spirit, especially Chinese laws and regulations, is also subject to certain penalties.”

Acts of protest at the Games are generally against rules set by the International Olympic Committee, which has also warned athletes not to protest at the Tokyo Summer Games or face potential sanctions.

However, the growing intolerance of protest, dissent or criticism in or against China is causing growing concern. Scores of human rights activists and lawyers have been arrested and jailed, and last year Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared from public view for several weeks after publicly accusing a former senior official of sexual assault, sparking an international campaign over his well-being.

Nick Kyrgios talks about Peng Shuai, Djokovic and the Australian Open crowd – video
Nick Kyrgios talks about Peng Shuai, Djokovic and the Australian Open crowd – video

On Tuesday evening, a forum organized by Human Rights Watch warned athletes not to engage in activism, including making statements, in Beijing for the Games, and to beware of the extraordinary reach of Chinese surveillance.

Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher for the organization, said Peng’s disappearance was “a good indicator of what could possibly happen” if the athletes spoke out.

“Chinese laws are very vague about what crimes can be used to sue people’s freedom of expression,” she said. “There are all kinds of crimes that can be committed as a result of peaceful and critical comments. And in China, the conviction rate is 99%.

“Athletes have an incredible platform and ability to express themselves, to be leaders in society and yet the team is not letting them answer questions on certain topics before these Games,” said the American Nordic skier. and former Olympian Noah Hoffman. “But my advice to athletes is to remain silent as it would threaten their own safety and it is not a reasonable request from the athletes. They will be able to speak out when they return.

As the Games approach, concerns have been raised about how to protect the data and privacy of participants in Beijing. Last week, Team GB athletes were told not to take their personal phones with them and instead were offered temporary replacements by the British Olympic Association, due to government spying concerns.

But a report on Wednesday by tech security watchdog Citizen Lab warned that an app all participants were required to download had a “devastating flaw” that left personal and medical information, voice audio and file transfers.

The application, MY2022, collects sensitive personal information, including a user’s name, phone number, ID number, and email address, as well as health information, including health status. daily self-reported health status, vaccination status and Covid test results.

The flaw allowed encryption protecting users’ voice and file transfers to be “trivially bypassed”, Citizen Lab said. “Health customs forms that transmit passport details, demographic information, and medical and travel history are also vulnerable. Server responses can also be spoofed, allowing an attacker to display false instructions to users.

Citizen Lab said the official Olympic Games manual describes a number of entities authorized to process such personal data, including the organizing committee and various Chinese authorities, but it did not specify “with whom or with what (s) organization(s) it would share users”. ‘medical and health information’.

The app also contains a feature for users to flag “politically sensitive” content, and a currently inactive censorship keyword list, relating to topics such as Xinjiang, Tibet, the Tiananmen Square massacre, slurs against China and its leaders, and neutral references to the Chinese government. agencies and figures.

In response, the International Olympic Committee said users can disable the app’s access to parts of their phones and that assessments from two unnamed cybersecurity organizations “confirmed that there were no vulnerabilities.” reviews”.

He also said installing the app was not necessary “because accredited personnel can log into the health monitoring system on the webpage instead”, but he had asked Citizen Lab for his report. to better understand their concerns.

Citizen Lab said it notified the Chinese Olympic Organizing Committee of the issues in early December and gave it 15 days to respond and 45 days to resolve the issue, but received no response.

France Agency-Presse contributed to this report.

Naomi C. Amerson