Over 180 human rights groups and activists have called on governments around the world to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing, citing “appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent” by the Chinese authorities.

In a joint letter published on Wednesday, campaigners concerned with the human rights situation in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang and Southern Mongolia urged world leaders shun the prestigious international sporting event a year ahead of its opening.

Beijing 2022 Olympics
Official emblems for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. Photo: International Olympic Committee.

Rights groups and activists warned that participation in the games may encourage further abuses. They described the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing as “emboldening” Beijing to tighten its grip on the Tibetan and Uyghur minority communities. The letter also cited young people in Hong Kong as being “rounded up by the thousands for simply advocating for democracy.”

“[T]hey must boycott the Games or risk emboldening China’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent,” the letter read.

Activists said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) failed to address concerns over alleged human rights violations in China and ignored the “sufferings” of pro-democracy activists in the regions. They urged governments to show “political will” and push back against “reprehensible human rights abuses” in China.

“The Winter Games 2022 being awarded to China was a slap on the face of every Uyghur, Tibetan, Southern Mongolian, Hongkonger, Taiwanese, and Chinese democracy activist,” said Zumretay Arkin, advocacy manager of the World Uyghur Congress.

protest hong kong
Hong Kong demonstrators protesting against alleged human rights violations in China, Photo: Studio Incendo.

Another activist, Dorjee Tseten of Students for a Free Tibet, said countries should uphold the values of democracy, freedom and human rights by abstaining from the games: “Hosting the games in a country committing genocide, ethnic cleansing, and occupation is akin to endorsing these crimes.”

The IOC announced last December that it would deliver on its human rights responsibilities in its own operations, saying they have increased engagement with human rights groups and experts.

“The IOC remains committed not only to continuing, but also to strengthening its work concerning human rights within the scope of our responsibility,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement on December 2, 2020.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.