Last fall, the International Olympic Committee hosted a video call with activists demanding the removal of Beijing as host of the 2022 Winter Olympics. During the call, militants said the Beijing Games had legitimized the escalation. of human rights of the Chinese government.
“You, ladies and gentlemen, have your responsibilities,” replied Juan Antonio Samaranch, chairman of the CIO Coordination Commission for the upcoming winter games, according to contemporary notes seen by BuzzFeed News. “We have ours.”
Activists have pointed to the massive detention of Muslims in Xinjiang, the repression of democracy in Hong Kong and the continued repression in Tibet. But CIO officials have unraveled their questions, saying the 2008 Beijing Olympics had led to better air quality and public transportation, according to notes and interviews with several activists involved. .
Called “Olympics of Genocide,” dozens of human rights groups they ordered the CIO to move the games to a different country, with some by comparison the next competition to that held in Nazi Germany in 1936. U US and Canada they have publicly called China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang a genocide.
In response to a detailed list of questions for this article, the CIO said it has taken into account the NGO’s views on issues including human rights for the Beijing Games. The committee said it has discussed these issues with the government and local authorities, who have assured them that they will abide by the Olympic Charter.
“In view of the diverse participation in the Olympic Games, the CIO must be neutral on all world political issues,” the CIO said in an email. “The granting of the Olympic Games to a National Olympic Committee does not mean that the CIO agrees with the political structure, social circumstances or human rights norms in his country.”
The CIO upholds the human rights principles listed in the Olympic Charter, he said, and “takes this responsibility very seriously.”
“At the same time,” he said, “the CIO has neither the mandate nor the capacity to change the laws or political system of a sovereign country. This must rightly remain the legitimate role of governments and their respective intergovernmental organizations.”
The CIO has repeatedly said so emphasize their neutrality in response to questions about the ethics of holding games in China. But in the private video call on October 6, 2020, CIO officials went further.
The call, which lasted more than an hour and involved a group of six activists and five CIO officials, began hopefully but ended tense, according to some of the activists on the call.
Officials have argued that the Olympics could be a catalyst for better infrastructure. They pointed to the 2008 Summer Olympics, arguing that when Beijing hosted that year, it stimulated improvements in infrastructure and air quality.
“They still have air quality problems, but for the first time, they were mentioning that the blue sky is called ‘Olympic Blue’ because … it was the first time they could see the blue air in Beijing,” he said. an officer, according to notes.
Teng Biao, one of China’s best-known human rights lawyers, was on call. He told BuzzFeed News that he was not impressed.
“It is too difficult to defend the Chinese government in terms of human rights or the rule of law,” Teng told BuzzFeed News. “So they can only find something like environmental policies.”
“The resumption of the Olympics in Beijing can be seen as an endorsement of the CCP’s atrocities, including the Uyghur genocide,” he said.
Teng lived in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics and said that, like other human rights lawyers, was banned from traveling, arrested and tortured while in police custody prior to the games. He said he told officials that his experience shows that holding the Olympics again in Beijing can bring harm. Police could not be reached for comment. But CIO officials seemed indifferent, Teng said.
Samaranch, chairman of the IOC coordination committee, said during the call that the games are “an extraordinary force for good,” bringing together people of different races and religions “as well as political systems, women and gentlemen, even political systems “, according to the note seen by BuzzFeed News.
“The world lives under different political systems,” he added. “We can’t go on saying and approving one or the other.”
Zumretay Arkin, program and defense director at the Uyghur World Congress, told CIO officials that relatives are missing in Xinjiang. She said officials told her she was sorry to hear it, but the world is a complicated place – a memory represented by notes and other activists present at the meeting.
Arkin told BuzzFeed News that she was very much at odds with CIO officials. “Everything has been bad since 2008,” he said. “We have a complete genocide, we have people in concentration camps, and you tell us the situation is not bad?”
“We have suffered from these policies,” he added. “Never think about hosting games in North Korea or other places. Why is China different?”
Dorjee Tseten, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, said she told officials she and others risked revenge on themselves and their families for publicly protesting the CIO’s decision. He also noted that many Buddhist monks and other Tibetan ethnic groups have been detained or tomb during the decades-long campaign of the government. Violent demonstrations exploded in Tibet before the 2008 Games, and at the time the president of the CIO they said in protest they were a “crisis” for the organization. But video call officers didn’t seem to care, Tseten said.
“I was shocked,” he said. “How can I explain the cold faces?” They don’t even recognize the suffering. “
Arkin, Teng and Tseten said discussions with the CIO have continued since October, even in a second call this month, but Arkin said nothing substantial has changed. Politicians in the United States and Europe, including former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, have in recent months called on governments to boycott games. Critics say they could unfairly penalize athletes. But activists say they see a diplomatic boycott as their only option, since the COI is unlikely to move the games.
Human rights groups are also looking to put pressure on companies like Airbnb to break down sponsorship links with the 2022 Games.
Tseten and others who took part in the protests leading up to the 2008 Games say China’s repression of democracy in Hong Kong and abuses in Xinjiang mean they are even less defensible this time around.
“We told them, in the end, this will be a game of genocide,” Tseten said. “And in history, the CIO will come down as part of that.”