China warns Olympic athletes against speeches, behaviours disapproved by it

Beijing Winter Olympics
China warns Olympic athletes against speeches, behaviours disapproved by it. (Photo courtesy: Xinhua)

(, Jan21’22) – Athletes and others taking part in the Feb-Mar 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics have been warned, this time by no less that the Chinese authorities themselves, that any remark by them critical of the communist party state of China would attract punishment.

The ANI news agency Jan 21 quoted Yang Shu, the Deputy Director-General of Beijing 2022’s International Relations Department, as saying, “…any behaviour or speeches that are against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”

According to China Researcher Yaqiu Wang of New York based Human Rights Watch, “Chinese laws are very vague on the crimes that can be used to prosecute people’s free speech… There are all kinds of crimes that can be levelled at peaceful, critical comments. And in China the conviction rate is 99%.”

Yang Shu declined to answer on Jan 18 what the maximum punishment could be for political demonstration at the Games, the report said.

Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter bans any form of demonstration or “political, religious or racial propaganda.” However, the International Olympic Committee relaxed guidelines from last year to allow athletes to express their views during periods outside of competition and ceremonies.

However, Yang’s remark appears to suggest that this distinction won’t be held up during the upcoming Beijing Winter Games.

Australia’s sports minister, Richard Colbeck, has called the potential restrictions on athletes’ speech “very concerning”. “The International Olympics Committee has made it clear that all athletes have the right to political opinions and the freedom to express them including through social media and media interviews,” he has said in comments to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Meanwhile, Citizen Lab, a Toronto-based global security research institute, has said that an app for Beijing Olympic participants has a “devastating” security flaw that could expose their sensitive information, including phone numbers, passport details, travel history, and health status.

While the smartphone app, called MY2022, provides travel, accommodations, and food services, and monitors users’ health status on a daily basis, it also has a feature for users to report “politically sensitive” content.

The app is also said to contain a blacklist for keywords such as “Falun Gong,” “Tibet Freedom,” and “Tiananmen massacre,” and so on.

Also, Chinese authorities were detaining human rights activists to strike out any potential dissent and criticism right ahead of the next month’s Winter Olympics, the ANI earlier reported Jan 20.

It cited a Wall Street Journal report as saying free-speech advocate Yang Maodong had been detained for undermining the Chinese authority on Jan 12. Though missing from early December, it was only on Jan 17 that Chinese police officially confirmed the 55-year-old’s detention to his family.

Also, Xie Yang, a 49-year old lawyer who had taken up politically sensitive cases related to religion and land rights, was reported to have been detained on Jan 11.

“You can imagine authorities all over the country are tightening control pre-emptively to strike out any potential dissent and criticism,” Renee Xia, a senior researcher with Chinese Human Rights Defenders in Washington, DC, was quoted as saying.


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