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China building Beijing Winter Olympics success on ruins of quashed dissent

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(TibetanReview.net, Feb01’22) – With the International Olympic Committee washing its hands off any responsibility for rights violations tied to Beijing’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Chinese authorities have detained activists in their homes and sent others to jail. Censors have shut down the social media accounts of prominent critics. And officials have warned Olympians that protest could bring prosecution, reported the nytimes.com Jan 31.

“They said if I don’t stay silent, my rights to visit my mother may be affected,” Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist, has said, adding that the authorities were determined to quash any overt criticisms of the Games online. Police in Beijing have confined him to his apartment. In January, he took to Twitter to criticize state security agents for questioning, harassing and detaining critics ahead of the Winter Olympics. Since then, the police had visited him four times in eight days, the report said.

The report said activists and human rights groups had accused the party of decimating civil liberties in Hong Kong, oppressing ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and censoring Peng Shuai, a top tennis player who has mostly disappeared from public view after accusing a senior Chinese leader of sexual assault.

Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist. (Photo courtesy: Sky News)

The report said the Olympic events will take place in front of a limited audience of screened spectators of China’s choosing. Fences had been installed to keep people out of venues like Beijing’s iconic National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, where the opening ceremony will be held.

The heavy-handed controls are a “way to show the Chinese governance model works,” Yaqiu Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, has said.

The report said Olympic sponsors, advertisers and contractors had warned their employees not to raise sensitive topics, lest they jeopardize the companies’ access to China’s market. Some national teams were said to have advised athletes not to bring their own phones, but to use temporary ones, because of concerns about surveillance.

As regards why China is acting so blatantly repressive, human rights lawyer Mr Teng Biao who went into exile and is now a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago, has said President Xi Jinping was showing that China had become powerful enough that it did not need to worry about what people think.

“Compared to 2008, the Chinese government has become more and more powerful and aggressive. It seems they care less about international pressure,” he has said in an interview, noting the brazenness of the warnings to foreign athletes.

“Beijing has the power — the economic and political power — to make the global business silent, even complicit, with human rights violations,” he has said.

Human rights groups have pointed to the detention or sentencing of five high-profile activists in recent weeks, including Xie Yang, a lawyer who was detained in January in the central city of Changsha for “inciting subversion” and “picking quarrels and provoking disturbances.”

The others included Ms Gao Yu, a veteran journalist and activist; Liang Xiaojun, a lawyer whose law license was revoked last month; and Zhang Yihe, a Chinese author and historian.

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