Human rights groups and political leaders are calling for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing over the Chinese Government’s atrocities against Uyghur citizens in the Xinjiang region. The Chinese government is estimated to have held between 1 to 1.8 million people in detention and forced labour camps in the region – the largest internment of an ethnic and religious minority since World War II.
In September, more than 160 human rights groups wrote to the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), urging them to reverse their decision to hold the 2022 Games in China, due to the state’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Inner Mongolia. In February, 180 organisations reiterated the call.
In its letter to the IOC, the coalition of 180 human rights groups highlighted the failure of the 2008 Beijing Games to encourage change in the county, stating:
The IOC refused to listen in 2008, defending its decision with claims that they would prove to be a catalyst for improved human rights. As human rights experts predicted, this decision proved to be hugely misplaced; not only did China’s human rights record not improve but violations increased substantially without rebuke.
“Now, in 2021, we find ourselves back in the same position with the IOC who are refusing to act despite the clear evidence of genocide and widespread and worsening human rights failures.
Other organisations are calling for a diplomatic boycott, which would allow players to compete, but would see governments refusing to send high-level officials to the games. Proponents say it could provide an opportunity to engage with the athletes, sponsors and broadcasters of the games and raise awareness of the issues.