Last fall, the International Olympic Committee organized a video call with activists demanding the withdrawal of Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. During the call, activists said the Beijing Games would legitimize rights abuses. human beings of the Chinese government.
“You, ladies and gentlemen, have your own responsibilities,” replied Juan Antonio Samaranch, chairman of the IOC Coordinating Committee for the upcoming Winter Games, according to contemporary notes from BuzzFeed News. “We have ours.”
Activists noted the mass detention of Muslims in Xinjiang, the repression of democracy in Hong Kong and the continued repression in Tibet. But IOC officials dismissed their questions claiming that the 2008 Beijing Olympics had led to better air quality and public transportation, according to notes and interviews with various activists involved.
Calling it the “Olympics of Genocide,” dozens of human rights groups they urged the IOC to move the games to a different country, with some comparing the next competition to be held in Nazi Germany in 1936. The WE i Canada they have publicly called China’s treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.
In response to a detailed list of questions in this article, the IOC said it took into account the views of NGOs on issues such as human rights at 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 diverse participation in the Olympics, the IOC must remain neutral on all world political issues,” the IOC said in an email. “Granting the Olympics to a National Olympic Committee does not mean that the IOC is in line with the political structure, social circumstances or human rights standards of your country.”
The IOC defends the human rights principles outlined in the Olympic Charter, he said, and “takes this responsibility very seriously.”
“At the same time,” he said, “the IOC has neither the mandate nor the capacity to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country. This must continue to be, rightly, the legitimate role of governments and the respective intergovernmental organizations “.
The IOC has repeated this repeatedly emphasized their neutrality in response to questions about the ethics of holding games in China. But in the October 6, 2020 private video call, IOC officials went further.
The call, which lasted more than an hour and was attended by a group of six activists and five IOC officials, began hopefully but ended tense, according to some of the activists in the call.
Officials argued that the Olympics could be a catalyst for better infrastructure. They noted the 2008 Summer Olympics, arguing that when Beijing hosted that year, it pushed for improvements in infrastructure and air quality.
“They still have air quality issues, but they first mentioned that the blue sky is called ‘Olympic blue’ because … it was the first time they saw blue air in Beijing,” an official said, according to notes .
Teng Biao, one of China’s best-known human rights lawyers, was on the call. He told BuzzFeed News that he was not impressed.
“It’s too difficult to defend the Chinese government in terms of human rights or the rule of law,” Teng told BuzzFeed News. “So they can only find something like environmental policies.”
“Holding the Olympic Games in Beijing again can be seen as a support for the CCP’s atrocities, including the Uyghur genocide,” he said.
Teng lived in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics and said that, like other human rights lawyers, was banned from traveling, was arrested and tortured while in police custody prior to the games. He said he told officials that his experience shows that holding the Olympics in Beijing again can cause harm. Police could not be reached for comment. But IOC officials seemed indifferent, Teng said.
Samaranch, chairman of the IOC coordinating commission, said during the call that games are “an extraordinary force for good,” bringing together people of different races and religions, and even political systems, ladies and gentlemen, until and all political systems, “according to notes seen by BuzzFeed News.
“The world lives under many political systems,” he added. “We can’t go and say one or the other.”
Zumretay Arkin, head of the program and defense of the Uyghur World Congress, told IOC officials in the call that he had missing relatives in Xinjiang. He said officials told him he was sorry to hear it, but the world is a complicated place, a memory that was also echoed in the notes and other activists present at the meeting.
Arkin told BuzzFeed News that he strongly disagreed with IOC officials. “Everything has gotten worse since 2008,” he said. “We have a complete genocide, we have people in the concentration camps and you tell us the situation didn’t get worse?”
“We are suffering from these policies,” he added. “I would never think of organizing games in North Korea or elsewhere. Why is China different? “
Dorjee Tseten, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, said she told officials that he and others have risked reprisals for them and their families for publicly protesting the IOC decision. He also noted that many Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans have been detained or dead during the government’s decades-long campaign. Violent demonstrations exploded in Tibet ahead of the 2008 Games and then the IOC president said the protests they were a “crisis” for the organization. But video call officials didn’t seem to care, Tseten said.
“It surprised me,” he said. “How can I explain cold faces? They didn’t even acknowledge the suffering. “
Arkin, Teng and Tseten said talks with the IOC have continued since October, even in a second call this month, but Arkin said nothing substantial has changed. Politicians in the US and Europe, included former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, have demanded in recent months that governments boycott the games. Critics say they can unfairly penalize athletes. But activists say they see the diplomatic boycott as their only option, as the IOC is unlikely to move the games.
Human rights groups are also looking to put pressure on companies like Airbnb to break sponsorship ties with the 2022 Games.
Tseten and others who took part in the pre-2008 protests say the repression of democracy from Hong Kong to Hong Kong and abuses in Xinjiang mean that this time they are even less defensible.
“We told them that in the end, this would be a game of genocide,” Tseten said. “And in history, the IOC will fall as part of that.”