Global rights bodies urge UN to investigate China, IOC to reconsider 2022 Winter Games in Beijing

US in two minds on 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics boycott.(Photo courtesy: PTI)

(, Sep10’20) – Urging the international community to not sit back and allow the Chinese authorities to trample on human rights at home and abroad, a total of 321 rights groups and other organisations have on Sep 9 called on the United Nations to launch an international investigation into Beijing’s human rights abuses, demanding “decisive action”. The development came just a day after more than 160 human rights advocacy groups released a joint letter they had delivered to the chief of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), calling on it to reconsider its choice to award China the 2022 Winter Games in light of Beijing’s human rights record.

In an open letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet as well as to member states, the 321 civil society groups have called for international scrutiny of “the Chinese government’s human rights violations”.

“The international community can no longer sit back and allow the Chinese authorities to trample on human rights at home and abroad,” the AFP Sep 9 quoted Joshua Rosenzweig, the deputy regional director for East and Southeast Asia for Amnesty International, which was one of the signatories, as saying in the joint statement.

The NGOs have pointed to an unprecedented call in June from dozens of independent UN experts for urgent action from the UN Human Rights Council to address the repression of fundamental freedoms in China.

The experts’ statement highlighted rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet and against Uygurs in Xinjiang, as well as suppression of vital information in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and government critics across the country.

And in their letter the NGOs have said they were also deeply concerned by “the impact of China’s rights violations worldwide”, pointing among other things to the targeting of rights defenders and internet censorship and digital surveillance.

They have also pointed to allegations that China was suppressing academic freedom in countries worldwide, and decried “the racist treatment of people in China, or by Chinese state actors in other parts of the world”.

And they have accused Beijing of working to “distort the mandate of the UN Human Rights Council … [by] opposing initiatives to bring scrutiny of serious rights violations and international crimes in countries around the world”.

“A state that tries to hold itself above any kind of scrutiny presents a fundamental threat to human rights,” the letter said.

Sarah Brooks of the International Service for Human Rights, a signatory, has said in the joint statement that “China’s disdain for human rights no longer affects only its citizens”.

“Its support for dictators and efforts to rewrite international standards are making the work of defending human rights harder than ever,” she has said.

The day before, in the largest coordinated effort following several months of similar calls from individual rights groups, over 160 human rights advocacy groups called on the IOC to reconsider its choice to award China the 2022 Winter Games.

“The IOC must recognise that the Olympic spirit and the reputation of the Olympic Games will suffer further damage if the worsening human rights crisis, across all areas under China’s control, is simply ignored,” Reuters Sep 9 quoted the letter as saying.

The latter was stated to argue that the prestige of the Beijing 2008 Olympics emboldened China to take further actions, including programmes targeting Xinjiang Uighurs and other ethnic policies.

However, the IOC has made it clear that it would not act on the letter.

The IOC said they remain neutral on global political issues, and that awarding the Olympic Games to a national committee “does not mean that the IOC agrees with the political structure, social circumstances or human rights standards in its country,” Reuters quoted the Olympic governing body as saying.

Claiming that it had raised human rights and other issues with China’s government and local authorities, the IOC has said, “We received assurances that the principles of the Olympic Charter will be respected in the context of the Games.”

China gave similar assurances to the IOC ahead of the Beijing Olympics of 2008.


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