Last fall, the International Olympic Committee hosted a video call with activists demanding the removal of Beijing as host of the 2022 Winter Olympics. During the call, campaigners said Beijing’s legitimacy would be legitimized by the Chinese government’s growing human rights abuses.
“You, brothers and sisters, have your own responsibilities,” replied Juan Antonio Samaranch, head of the IOC Coordination Commission for the upcoming Winter Games, in line with concurrent notes seen by BuzzFeed News. “We have.”
Activists point to the widespread repression of Muslims in Xinjiang, the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, and the continuing oppression in Tibet. But IOC officials ended their questions by claiming that the Beijing Olympics in 2008 brought better air quality and public transportation, according to notes and talks with several activists involved.
Called it the “genocide Olympics,” many human rights groups urged the IOC to transfer the games to a different country, along with some CONTRASTS the future competition of one held in Nazi Germany in 1936. The US and Canada publicly called China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang a genocide.
In response to a detailed list of questions for this article, the IOC says 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 had promised they would respect the Olympic Charter.
“Due to the diverse participation in the Olympic Games, the IOC must remain neutral on all political issues in the world,” the IOC said in an email. “The awarding of the Olympic Games to a National Olympic Committee does not imply that the IOC agrees with the political structure, social status or human rights standards of the country.”
The IOC adheres to the human rights principles outlined in the Olympic Charter, as it were, and “takes this responsibility seriously.”
“At the same time,” it said, “the IOC has no mandate or capacity to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country. It must continue to play a legitimate role in governments. and in individual government organizations.
The IOC is constantly changing highlighted its neutrality in response to questions about the ethics of restricting Chinese games. But in a private video call on October 6, 2020, IOC officials went further.
The call, which lasted more than an hour and was joined by a group of six activists and five IOC officials, began optimistically but ended up being strained, some activists agreed with the call.
Officials argue that the Olympics could be a factor in better infrastructure. They pointed to the 2008 Summer Olympics, arguing that by hosting Beijing this year, it encouraged improvements in infrastructure and air quality.
“They still have air quality issues, but for the first time, they say the blue sky is called‘ Olympic Blue ’because… this is the first time they have seen blue air in Beijing,” as an officer.the notes.
Teng Biao, one of China’s most renowned human rights lawyers, called. He told BuzzFeed News 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. “That’s why they can only find something like environmental policies.”
“Beijing’s re-hosting of the Olympics can be seen as an endorsement of CCP’s anomalies including Uyghur genetics,” 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 prior to the games. He said he told officials his experience showed that continuing the Beijing Olympics could be detrimental. Police were not reached for comment. But IOC officials seem indifferent, Teng said.
Samaranch, chairman of the IOC’s coordination commission, called the games “a unique force for good,” uniting people of different races and religions “and even political systems, women and lords, even political systems, ”according to notes found by BuzzFeed News.
“The world lives under many political systems,” he added. “We can’t go and say and endorse one or the other.”
Zumretay Arkin, program and advocacy manager at the World Uyghur Congress, told IOC officials on the call that his relatives in Xinjiang were missing. He said officials told him they were sorry to hear it, but the world is a complicated place – a memory echoed by the notes as well as other activists who attended the meeting.
Arkin told BuzzFeed News that he strongly disagreed with IOC officials. “Everything has gotten worse since 2008,” he said. “We had a complete genocide, we had people in concentration camps, and you told us the situation didn’t get worse?”
“We suffer from these policies,” he added. “You don’t think about hosting games in North Korea or other places. Why is China different?”
Dorjee Tseten, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, said he told officials he and others risked retaliation for themselves and their families to publicly protest the IOC’s decision. He also noted that many Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans were detained or killed in many years of government campaigning. Violent demonstrations exploded in Tibet first in the 2008 Games, and at the time was president of the IOC said the protesters a “crisis” for the organization. But video call officials don’t seem to care, Tseten said.
“I was shocked,” he said. “How can I explain the cold faces? They don’t even recognize the suffering.”
Arkin, Teng, and Tseten said IOC discussions have been ongoing since October, including a second call this month, but Arkin said there has been no change in magnitude. US politicians and Europe, including former U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, in recent months has called for governments to boycott the games. Critics say it may not be fair to punish athletes. But activists say they see a diplomatic boycott as their only option, as the IOC is unlikely to move the games.
Human rights groups are also seeking to crack down on companies like Airbnb to sever sponsorship relationships with the 2022 Games.
Tseten and others involved in the protests until the 2008 Games said China’s suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and the abuses in Xinjiang meant they were even more unprotected nowadays.
“We told them, in the end, it was a genocide game,” Tseten said. “And historically, the IOC has acted as part of that.”