Uyghur And Tibetan Human Rights groups are urging Governments and 15 multinational corporations, leading Olympic sponsors, many household names like Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Visa, Toyota, Samsung and General Electric that have agreed to sponsor the Beijing Winter Olympics, to boycott what they call the “Genocide Games” and use their platforms instead to educate the world about China’s persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province ahead of the 2022 event.
A joint letter signed by more than 180 campaign groups has been sent to leaders around the world as pressure for a boycott of next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Beijing continues. The letter has been sent almost a year to the day before the Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony is due to be held in Beijing on February 4 next year 2022.
Signatories said they were now targeting Governments and world leaders as the IOC had “completely failed” to take any action “despite clear evidence of genocide and widespread and worsening human rights failures”.
Related Article The Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang
“It now falls on Governments to take a stand and demonstrate that they have the political will to push back against China’s reprehensible human rights abuses,” a statement said.
The letter claims that Beijing’s hosting of the Summer Olympic Games in 2008 merely “emboldened the Chinese Government’s actions” and led to “a gross increase of the assault on communities living under its rule”.
So far none of the big-name sponsors have endorsed the Uighur campaigners’ calls for justice. Together they pay at least $1 billion to the International Olympic Committee, and in the next four-year Olympic cycle the payments could reach $2 billion.
They are tied together by Beijing’s 2022 Winter Olympics, which opens in just under a year. Sponsors want the Olympic connection, but they risk damaging their brand because of reported human-rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs, Tibetans, Christians, people of Hong Kong and other minorities in China.
International lawyers and activists have branded these the “Genocide Games” and are pressuring sponsors, the IOC and world sports federations to investigate.
“Here we are 12 months before the games begin. The fact that some companies are not yet talking about the boycott, I think it’s because they haven’t felt the political pressure or the effect of the boycott on their own products. But they will. You’ll see increasingly that happens,” Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Northampton, Massachusetts-based Smith College said.
“Every company is going to assess the state of political protests and the state of the boycott. At this point, the international uproar around China human rights issue is just beginning,” he added.
Thousands of Olympic athletes are caught in the middle. For most, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for fame and a medal. But they’re on their own. Those who speak out may be banned by Olympic bodies, dropped by sponsors, and threatened by the Chinese state.
“It’s not fair that these huge institutions who can speak out are going to leave it to the individual athletes to do this,” Blair McDougall, campaign director for the British-based Stop Uyghur Genocide said. “The governing bodies could speak out, the sponsors, the IOC.”
Instead, there is silence.
“Once again athletes are being used as pawns,” said Rob Koehler, director general of Global Athlete, an advocacy group for Olympic athletes.
Uyghur And Tibetan Human Rights groups have initially targeted Airbnb and CEO Brian Chesky. The World Uyghur Congress and other advocates for Uyghurs and Tibetans have previously called for moving the games, or some type of boycott.
“Airbnb describe themselves as a company that talks of having an ethos,” McDougall said. “So far they have ignored us.”
To grab attention, campaigners have designed a mock-ad linking Airbnb to the internment camps and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Although sponsors account for about 18% of the IOC’s income, 73% comes from selling broadcast rights. The American network NBC accounts for about half of the broadcast income.
This will be Beijing’s second Olympics in 14 years, following the 2008 Summer Games that were supposed to improve human rights in China. These Olympics landed in China after several European bidders withdrew over costs and public opposition. The IOC was left with two choices: Beijing or Almaty, Kazakhstan. Beijing won in a narrow 44-40 vote.
“Our direct request of the sponsors is simple,” McDougall said. “Meet with the Uyghurs and people who have survived the network of camps so that you are not complicit in the use of the games in silencing the issue; in being used as a propaganda tool to distract from what’s happening.”Zimbalist, the author of “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup,” said that he expects to see growing “embarrassment” and “bad publicity” around China’s rights abuses in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, which will likely translate into a “very significant public relations loss” in its hosting of the winter games.
That may push the likes of U.S-based beverage company Coca-Cola, or The Olympic Partners (TOP), to exert their influence or re-negotiate their sponsorship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in a legal battle, which, however, won’t play out in public due to bad publicity, the professor said.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an international organization of exiled Uighur groups, denounced the IOC and sponsors such as Airbnb, which heralds its practice of social responsibility, for kowtowing to China’s economic clout.
The companies will pay a commercial price if they continue to associate their brands with what he called the Genocide Games, Raxit said.
“Only a boycott will send a clear message to China. And any form of compromises will be used by Beijing to advance its political agenda. We call for a tougher stance on Beijing’s hosting of the winter games because a softened gesture exhibits a disguised support for an authoritarian regime,” he said.
London-based human-rights lawyer Michael Polak filed a complaint with the IOC ethics commission over Beijing’s “breaches of the Olympic charter.” Instead of responding to his brief, the commission referred him to a statement from IOC President Thomas Bach.
A coalition of more than 180 rights groups have also called for a boycott of the 2022 event on the ground that Beijing’s massive right abuses violate the Olympic Charter.
The charter in Principle 6 under “Olympism,” prohibits discrimination “of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
London-based human-rights lawyer Michael Polak plans to follow up with Ban Ki-moon, the former United Nations secretary general and the chairman of the IOC ethics commission. The commission itself is not independent of the IOC, but Polak believes it should be.
The IOC has often repeated its position: it simply runs a sports events and “has neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country.”
Polak said it’s impossible for the IOC to guarantee that elements used in the games – souvenirs, technology to time races, or clothing – were not produced by Uyghur “forced labor.”
“Because the supply chain is so muddy in China, it’s very likely that when an athlete crosses the finishing line, it will be the same technology that China uses to track Uyghurs,” Polak said.
Polak pointed out that the United Nations Genocide Convention spells out much of the behavior taking place in China.
“Internationally there is no dispute that crimes against humanity are taking place,” Polak said. “Whether it amounts to genocide, there are some arguments. Although most people seem to now accept it does reach the stage of genocide. That’s in regard to preventing births and also separating children from families.”
Referendum Against China
Already, politicians from the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada have spoken up, urging their governments not to send athletes or diplomats to the games if the IOC refuses to relocate the staging to another city.
Canada’s House of Commons on Monday voted 266-0 in a non-binding referendum that China is committing genocide against more than 1 million Uyghurs and called for the IOC to move the Olympics from Beijing. The Dutch parliament passed a similar motion on Thursday saying the treatment amounted to genocide.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he believes genocide is being committed against the Uyghurs.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded to Blinken: “The most important thing should be repeated three times: China has no genocide; China has no genocide; China has no genocide, period.”
Points to Ponder
Has the world forgotten the Bio-Warfare attack by China in the form of Chinese Corona Virus unleashed on the entire world that has killed over 2.5 Million people worldwide and brought the world economy to a standstill?
Wouldn’t countries sending their athletes tantamount to absolving Communist CCP of its crime against Humanity including Chinese Virus attack on the world, Genocide of Uyghurs and Tibetans and also suppressing democracy in Hong Kong, persecution of Christians and other minorities?
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