Activists on Tuesday called for the postponement of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as China prepares to receive the Olympic flame, a day after a protest disrupted the lighting ceremony in Olympia.
“It’s sports wash. There is no legitimate reason to host the Games during a genocide, ”Zumretay Arkin, advocacy officer for the Uyghur World Congress, told a press conference in the Greek capital.
“For sure there will be protests (in China) by Uyghurs, Tibetans,” said Arkin, who said he had no contact with his family since 2017.
Lit Monday in ancient Olympia, cradle of the ancient Games, the flame will be handed over to the Beijing 2022 delegation at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where the Olympic Games were relaunched in 1896, and will fly to China.
During the ceremony in Olympia on Monday, activists unfurled a Tibetan flag and a banner saying “no genocide” at the Games. A similar demonstration took place at the Acropolis in Athens.
Tibet has alternated over the centuries between independence and control from China, which says it “peacefully liberated” the rugged plateau in 1951 and brought infrastructure and education to the previously underdeveloped region.
But human rights activists and exiles claim that China’s central government practices religious repression, torture, forced sterilization and cultural erosion through forced re-education.
Activists believe that at least a million Uyghurs and other Turkish-speaking minorities, mostly Muslims, are being held in camps in Xinjiang.
After initially denying the existence of the camps in Xinjiang, China later defended them as vocational training centers aimed at reducing the attractiveness of Islamic extremism.
“Who will ensure that none of my relatives are currently working in forced labor factories producing clothing and uniforms for the Olympics,” Arkin said on Tuesday.
“Can someone tell me where my relatives are?” I do not think so.
Activists said on Tuesday that Hong Kong residents, Tibetans and Uyghurs were under ‘Orwellian’ surveillance in China, which they said was ’emboldened’ after hosting the 2008 Summer Games. .
The IOC legitimizes “one of the worst human rights violations of the entire 21st century” and defiles the spirit of the Games, said Pema Doma, campaign director for Students for a Free Tibet.
“These Games cannot go as planned, they have to be postponed,” she said.
IOC President Thomas Bach pushed back discussions on a possible boycott, asserting the political neutrality of the International Olympic Committee and declaring that it was up to governments to shoulder their responsibilities.
A victim of the boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980, the former fencer said such measures only punished athletes, and insisted that the IOC was dealing with the issue of rights “within our purview”.
Around 2,900 athletes, representing around 85 National Olympic Committees, will participate in the Winter Games between February 4 and 20, 2022.
Arkin said the campaign “to shed light on all different abuses” was stronger than that of 2008, bringing together “Uyghur communities, Hong Kong communities, Tibetan, South Mongolian, Chinese and Taiwanese communities.”
“No one can stop us. Neither the IOC, nor the governments, nor the sponsors, nor the athletes. We will not stop, ”she said.
strawberries-jph / jc
© 2021 AFP