Activists Urge Athletes to Speak Out at Beijing Olympics

Activists Urge Athletes to Speak Out at Beijing Olympics
Human right groups gather on the United Nations international Human Rights Day to call for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022, in front of the Bank of China building in Taipei, Taiwan, on Dec. 10, 2021. (Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo)
The Associated Press

BEIJING—Human rights activists issued a call to action against the Beijing Olympics on Friday, imploring athletes and sponsors to speak out against what they call the “genocide games.”

Speaking at an online press conference organized by the rights group Human Rights Watch, activists representing Chinese dissidents and the minority Uyghur and Tibetan populations urged international attendants to voice their opposition to the Chinese regime’s hosting of the Games, which begin next week.

“The 2022 Winter Olympics will be remembered as the genocide games,” said Teng Biao, a former human rights activist in China who is now a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.

“The CCP’s purpose is to exactly turn the sports arena into a stage for political legitimacy and a tool to whitewash all those atrocities,” he added, referring to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The CCP’s clampdown has been felt across wide swaths of society. Hong Kong authorities crushed pro-democracy protests in the city in 2019, and the Chinese communist regime in Beijing passed a national security law aimed at stifling dissent, leading to the arrest of activists and disbandment of civil society groups.

Meanwhile, in the country’s western region of Xinjiang, an estimated 1 million people or more—most of them Uyghurs—have been confined in reeducation camps in recent years, according to researchers.

An independent, unofficial body set up by a prominent British barrister to assess evidence on the CCP’s alleged rights abuses against the Uyghur people concluded in December that the CCP committed genocide.

The Olympics is already facing a diplomatic boycott led by the United States, whose relationship with China has nosedived in the past few years.

Activists have continued to speak out.

“Your silence is their strength. This is what they want more than anything: that the world will play by China’s rules, that we will follow China’s lead, that we will look away from these atrocities and crimes for the sake of business as usual,” said Lhadon Tethong, director of the Tibet Action Institute, at the press conference Friday.

She appealed directly to athletes from the United States, the UK, France, and others to speak.

“I personally believe that you should use your platform and your privilege and this historic opportunity. You have to speak out against the wave of genocide,” she said.