Uyghurs call for 2022 Beijing Winter Games to be relocated due to rights abuses

The largest group of exiled ethnic Uyghurs has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reconsider holding the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, citing what it says is evidence of crimes against humanity committed in China’s Xinjiang region.

Key points:

  • China is accused of holding more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in detention camps
  • Uyghur groups and Western politicians are calling upon the IOC to hold Beijing to account for rights abuses
  • More than 70 Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders said the world needs to stop “genocide” against Uyghurs

The IOC, contacted about the submission by the World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement to Reuters that it must “remain neutral on all global political issues”.

It said it had received assurances from Chinese government authorities “that the principles of the Olympic Charter will be respected in the context of the Games”.

The Chinese foreign ministry accused the World Uyghur Congress of having “multiple ties with terrorist organisations”.

It said the group’s “ridiculous assertions are not worth rebutting” and added that preparations for the Winter Olympics are progressing smoothly.‘Deeply disturbing’Australia’s Foreign Minister and members of the Uyghur community condemned a video that purports to show a mass transfer of Uyghur men — their heads freshly shaved —blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs in Xinjiang.Read more

UN experts estimate than more than a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been detained against their will for several years in camps in the far western region.

Media and watchdog reports have also documented human rights abuses including forced labour and the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women.

China denies mistreatment of the minority group and says the camps holding many Uyghurs provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

It dismisses reports of rights abuses in Xinjiang as “fabricated” and “fake news,” and insists the Government treats all ethnicities equally.

Men and women in matching outfits sit in a classroom.
China says its so-called vocational training centres are important for fighting extremism.(Reuters: Ben Blanchard)

Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, said in a statement that it had submitted a formal complaint to the IOC’s ethics commission on Thursday.

It held that the IOC had “acted in breach of the Olympic Charter by failing to reconsider holding the 2022 Olympics in Beijing following verifiable evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity taking place against the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims by the People’s Republic of China”.

The complaint, submitted by London-based lawyer Michael Polak, included evidence that it said proved that crimes against humanity are taking place such as mass sterilisation, arbitrary detention in internment camps and torture.

Growing calls to boycott Beijing 2022

Some commentators have suggested that the United States may boycott Beijing 2022 altogether, amid sharply escalating bilateral tensions worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Trump administration, with congressional support, should begin working now to build an international coalition that will call on the IOC to move or cancel the Games unless China closes the camps and ends abuses in Xinjiang,” wrote Michael Mazza of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative thinktank, late last year.

US Senator Rick Scott earlier this month wrote to the IOC’s President Thomas Bach, calling upon the organisation to “stand up” to Beijing over the crackdown in Hong Kong and “genocide against Uyghurs living in Xinjiang”, or “find a new home” for the 2022 Games.

Politicians from Canada have also called for the event to be moved. Australia has been a vocal critic of China’s mass detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

This week, more than 70 interfaith religious leaders from around the world condemned China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, which they said constituted “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust”.

“After the Holocaust, the world said ‘never again.’ Today, we repeat those words,” said the statement, signed by imams, rabbis and Christian leaders.

“We stand with the Uyghurs. We also stand with Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners and Christians throughout China who face the worst crackdown on freedom of religion or belief since the Cultural Revolution.”

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