Activists urge IOC to postpone 'genocide' Beijing Games

Agence France-Presse
Activists urge IOC to postpone 'genocide' Beijing Games
Tibetan and Uyghur activists hold placards and wear masks during a protest against Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in front of the Olympics Museum in Lausanne on June 23, 2021 as some 200 participants took part to the protest.
Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

ATHENS – Activists on Tuesday called for the postponement of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics as China prepared to receive the Olympic flame, a day after a protest disrupted the lighting ceremony in Olympia.

"This is sports-washing. There are no legitimate reasons to host the Games during a genocide," Zumretay Arkin, advocacy manager of the World Uighur Congress, told a news conference in the Greek capital.

"For sure there will be protests (in China) by Uighurs, Tibetans," said Arkin, who said she has had no contact with her family since 2017.

Lit on Sunday in Ancient Olympia, the cradle of the ancient Games, the flame will be handed over to the delegation from Beijing 2022 at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where the Olympics were revived in 1896, and will be flown to China.

During the ceremony in Olympia on Monday, the activists unfurled a Tibetan flag and a banner that said "no genocide" at the Games. A similar protest was held at the Acropolis in Athens.

Tibet has alternated over the centuries between independence and control by China, which says it "peacefully liberated" the rugged plateau in 1951 and brought infrastructure and education to the previously underdeveloped region.

But human rights campaigners and exiles say the Chinese central government practices religious repression, torture, forced sterilization and cultural erosion through forced re-education.

The activists on Tuesday said Hong Kong residents, Tibetans and Uighurs faced "Orwellian" surveillance in China, which they said was "emboldened" after hosting the Summer Games in 2008.

The IOC is legitimizing "one of the worst violations of human rights in the entire 21st century" and defiling the spirit of the Games, said Pema Doma, campaigns director for Students for a Free Tibet.

"These Games cannot go ahead as planned, they must be postponed," she said.

Around 2,900 athletes, representing approximately 85 National Olympic Committees, will compete in the Winter Games between 4 and 20 February 2022.

Arkin said the campaign "to train light on all the different abuses" was stronger than that of 2008, bringing together "Uighur communities, Hong Kong communities, Tibetan, Southern Mongolian, Chinese and Taiwanese communities".

"No one can stop us. Not the IOC, not governments, not sponsors, not athletes. We will not stop," she said.

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