International News May 18, 2021 10:58 PM EST

'This cannot be games as usual': Human rights groups call for full boycott of Beijing Olympics

A coalition of groups representing Tibetans, Uyghurs, residents of Hong Kong, as well as other are calling for a full-blown boycott of the Winter Olympics Beijing in 2022.

'This cannot be games as usual': Human rights groups call for full boycott of Beijing Olympics
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC
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A coalition of groups representing Tibetans, Uyghurs, residents of Hong Kong, as well as other are calling for a full-blown boycott of the Winter Olympics Beijing in 2022, the Associated Press reports.

The groups issued a statement on Monday outlining the necessity for a boycott, due to human-rights abuses in the region.

They argue that by holding the games as planned, "the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to put profit before human lives and turn a blind eye to genocide."

Representing one of the groups in the coalition is Lhadon Tethong of the Tibet Action institute, who spoke on the urgency of the matter with the Associated Press.

"The time for talking with the IOC is over,” said Tethong.“This cannot be games as usual or business as usual; not for the IOC and not for the international community.”

Tethong was deported from China in 2007 for leading a campaign for Tibet, just a year before the 2008 Olympic Games.

"The situation where we are now is demonstrably worse that it was then,” Tethong said. “If the games go ahead, then Beijing gets the international seal of approval for what they are doing.”

The renewed push for a boycott comes right before a joint hearing in US congress over the Beijing Olympics and human-rights cases in China. It also comes days after the United States Olympic and Paralympic committee spoke out against boycotts, saying that they are ineffective and only hurts the athletes themselves.

"People have worked to engage with the IOC in good faith to have them understand the issues directly from the mouths of those most impacted — the Uyghurs at the top of that list and the Tibetans and others,” Tethong said. “It’s clear the IOC is completely uninterested in what the real impacts on the ground for people are.”

The IOC has stated repeatedly that it must stay out of politics and remain "neutral," as a business that makes three-quarters of its money fro selling broadcast rights.

IOC President Thomas Bach added recently that "we [IOC] are not a super-world government."

Tethong slammed the IOC for putting athletes in this position, and hoped that some of these athletes may become allies in the matter.

"There are obviously a lot of people who are concerned about the athletes and their lifelong work," said Tethong. “But in the end it’s the IOC that has put them in this position and should be held accountable.”

Tethong asked the moral question of China's Olympic hosting, "Is it OK to host an international goodwill sporting event such as the Olympic Games while the host nation is committing genocide just beyond the stands?"

The IOC, starting with Paris in 2024, will begin including human rights requirements, but did not include them when the contract for Beijing was written.

Human rights groups and a group of Western nations accused China last week of massive human rights crimes.

Britain's UN ambassador said in this joint meeting that the Uyghur situation in Xinjiang is "one of the worst human rights crises of our time," adding that the evidence points to a program of repression of specific ethnic groups. Expressions of religion have been criminalized and Uyghur language and culture are discriminated against systematically and at scale."

The Winter Olympics are set to open in less than year from now, on February 4, 2022.

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