A group of Chinese lawyers, journalists, scholars and activists as well as NGO Human Rights Watch have called upon the International Olympic Committee to turn down Beijing’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in light of China’s poor human rights record.

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The IOC will decide the 2022 Winter Games host city during its 128th Congress in Malaysia. Photo: IOC

An open letter addressed to IOC President Thomas Bach, signed by prominent rights activist Hu Jia, exiled 1989 student leaders Wu’er Kaixi, Zhou Fengsuo, Fang Zheng and others, said that China’s ongoing assault on human rights lawyers and activists makes it unfit to host the games.

“If the International Olympic Committee awards Beijing the 2022 Winter Olympics, a great event intended to promote solidarity, brotherhood and human development will once again serve a corrupt dictatorship. It will endorse a government that blatantly violates human rights,” the letter said.

China1A 2008 Amnesty International campaign.
An Amnesty International campaign in the wake of the 2008 Olympics. Photo: Amnesty International.

Other signatories included Chen Guangcheng, the blind self-taught lawyer who made a daring escape from house arrest in Shandong to seek refuge in the US embassy in Beijing in 2012. Chen now lives in the US.

The letter has become an online signature campaign which has attracted 123 supporters as of Sunday night.

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Beijing is competing with Almaty, former capital of Kazakhstan, to host the 2022 Winter Games. The IOC is set to vote for a winner in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 31.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on July 22, urging the IOC to take into consideration both China and Kazakhstan’s poor human rights records.

“Whether China or Kazakhstan wins the honour of hosting the 2022 Winter Games, the IOC will face an extreme test of its new commitment to improve human rights protections,” said Minky Worden, Global Initiatives director at Human Rights Watch. “The International Olympic Committee should insist that the host country rigorously comply with the Olympic Charter and basic human rights rules – or risk losing the right to host the games.”

China’s crackdown on the civil rights defense movement continued into the third week as human rights lawyer Tang Jingling’s trial resumed in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Tang is charged with subversion of state power along with two activists Yuan Xinting and Wang Qingying. On Thursday and Friday authorities detained supporters of the trio, known as the “three gentlemen of Guangzhou”, outside the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court while police blocked journalists from covering the trial.

The IOC did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that Almaty is the capital of Kazakhstan. Astana became the capital in 1997.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.