Olympic Games and human rights

Indifference instead of neutrality (Press Release)

On Tuesday, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) criticized the fact that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its president Thomas Bach have so far not commented on the serious human rights violations in China. A few days ago, Bach had stated that the Olympic Games should not become a "marketplace for demonstrations of all kinds". However, according to Hanno Schedler, STP expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, Bach's notion of political neutrality is to be understood as a call to tacitly accept the serious human rights violations in China. "However, tacitly accepting these crimes is not neutral behavior. His attempts to protect the Chinese Communist Party from criticism must be seen as support for the ongoing genocide crimes." What Bach wants are spotless images from the People's Republic – while more than a million members of the ethnic groups of the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz are or were arbitrarily interned there. Obviously, the fate of the Muslim nationalities and the persecuted people in Tibet and Inner Mongolia is not supposed to disturb these regime-friendly pictures.

Five years ago, the IOC announced its decision to award the 2022 Winter Olympics to China. Thereupon, the STP had asked Bach to stand up for persecuted media workers and legal advisers in China in order to prevent a renewed misuse of the Olympic Games for the political propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party. Further, the human rights organization had insisted on consistent measures to investigate the serious human rights violations committed in the run-up to and during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. "Unfortunately, Mr. Bach is apparently indifferent to persecuted people in China. But it is unacceptable that he – now, years after the Chinese re-education camps for Muslim nationalities came to light – is not even willing to say the word 'Uyghurs'. Women are becoming victims of forced sterilization, children are separated from their families… and Mr. Bach pretends that the Olympic Games will be taking place in a politically free space. The Chinese government is delighted."

In view of the human rights violations in Xinjiang/East Turkestan, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab had suggested a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, and a boycott is also discussed in Canada, Australia, and the United States. According to Schedler, this debate is overdue in Germany: "Thomas Bach expressed hopes that the Olympic Games could 'open a door to peace'. But the Muslim minorities in Xinjiang will only find peace if the camps are closed and the persecution by the Chinese government ends."