More questions on human rights for Beijing Winter Olympics
Zumretay Arkin recently asked a question at an online meeting with Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the prominent member of the International Olympic Committee overseeing preparations for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.
"Why should China, a country that operates concentration camps with at least 1 million imprisoned Muslim Uyghurs, be allowed to host the Olympic Games?" She asked.
Arkin, a spokeswoman for the World Uyghur Congress, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the response was disappointing.
"We gave IOC officials first-hand testimony of our personal experiences and how we are influenced by China's repressive policies," said Arkin. "We were hoping that this would open the door to a more valuable exchange."
Instead, the IOC repeated its position: it is not a political body and takes no position on human rights issues. It just organizes sporting events.
The Uighur organization and other human rights groups sent an open letter to IOC President Thomas Bach a month ago, asking for the Games to be removed from China. In response, the IOC organized an online meeting last week that was attended by groups representing Tibet, Hong Kong and others.
In a statement to the AP, the IOC said: “Assigning the Olympic Games to a national Olympic committee does not mean that the IOC agrees with the political structure, social circumstances or human rights standards in its country. ... The IOC has neither the mandate nor the ability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country. "
Arkin was born in Xinjiang, immigrated to Canada and still has a family in northwest China. She described Xinjiang as a human rights problem, not just a political problem.
"I am really disappointed with the response from the IOC," said Dorjee Tseten of Students for a Free Tibet in a statement after the meeting. “The Olympics should be a celebration of cultural diversity, but what China is doing is cultural genocide. ... Hosting the Olympics in China at this time of millions of people in prison is synonymous with the IOC China granted permission for these crimes. "
Although it is said to remain above politics, the IOC has observer status at the United Nations and has expressed its efforts to build peace in North and South Korea. That was a constant theme at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Arkin said the World Uyghur Congress is not calling for a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympics. That doesn't seem likely anyway, although Iain Duncan Smith, former chairman of the British Conservative Party, and US Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menedez have called for strong action.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has not ruled out a boycott. Australian Senator Rex Patrick has asked for one. In response, China has repeatedly accused critics of "politicizing sporting events" and violating the Olympic Charter.
Arkin said the human rights coalition was hoping to target some of the IOC's top 14 sponsors and potentially gain support from athletes who agree to protests against Black Lives Matter in the US. The German soccer player Mesut Ozil called the topic "Muslim Lives Matter" in Xinjiang.
Arkin said the coalitions were hoping to meet with the IOC again, although it is impossible for both sides to give in.
The IOC is also under pressure to change its Rule 50, which would give athletes more leeway to protest the Olympics - including in China.
Beijing almost coincidentally ended with the 2022 Winter Olympics. A handful of favored European countries, deterred by the cost, withdrew from the tender before the 2015 vote, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, as candidates. Beijing won by four votes.
Arkin calls what is happening in Xinjiang "genocide" when others have called it "cultural genocide" or "ethnic cleansing". She said between 1.8 and 3 million Uyghurs were forcibly detained in "re-education camps" with evidence that women had been subjected to forced abortions or sterilization. There is evidence that other inmates were sent to forced labor camps.
China faced pressures on human rights in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, but the country appeared to be opening up at this point as it gave foreign reporters more freedom to report in the country. The 2008 Olympic Games should change China.
"In 2008, the international community firmly believed that the Olympics in China would open up China," said Arkin. “And there was a lot of hope around this idea. Now nobody believes that this will bring about change. It will just be a Chinese government propaganda parade. "
This story has been corrected to show that Mesut Ozil is a German soccer player, not a Turk.
Other AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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