What looked like a Quixotic movement doomed to failure is now gaining momentum internationally.
by Marco Respinti
The 2022 Winter Olympic Games should be moved away from China, if the Chinese regime does not prove that it has taken serious steps to improve its abysmal human rights record. This is the call insistently heard from important groups and individuals worried by the state of religious freedom and human rights in the land of Red Dragon.
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC), one of the major organizations of the Uyghur diaspora, based in Munich, Germany, has taken the lead in this field. Last month, WUC formally addressed to Mr. Ban Ki Moon, formerly Secretary General of the United Nations and from mid-September 2017 Chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Ethics Commission, a letter “raising its grievance in relation to the failure of the Ethics Office to follow the Rules of Procedure Governing Cases of Possible Breach of Ethical Principles” in the case of China.
In fact, WUC states, “IOC, its Executive Board, and IOC President Thomas Bach have acted in breach of the Olympic Charter by failing to reconsider holding the 2022 Olympics in Beijing following verifiable evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity taking place”.
It is of course possible to raise questions also on the nature of the CCP’s polices elsewhere in China, and against other ethnic and religious groups, such as Tibetans and Mongols in Southern Mongolia, or Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God (CAG), to name only a few, but “genocide” is a very serious word. It configures a specific crime, either of physical or cultural nature, and it has precise legal implications. It is not a word to be used lightheartedly, and its substance should be proved convincingly. So, while evidence is being gathered in the cases of Tibetans, Mongols, Falun Gong, and the CAG, as well as others ethnic or religious groups—as Bitter Winter documents daily—that there is a Uyghur genocide is now widely recognized, and this is breaking the ice for all those persecuted in China.
First came the open denunciation of genocide in Xinjiang by the US State department, both during the Trump Administration and the present Biden Administration. Then, the formal recognition of that same crime by the Canadian House of Commons and the Dutch Parliament—while other such actions are being considered by the Parliaments of other countries—which has direct implications for the Olympics. In fact, in both Canada and the Netherlands the Parliaments passed amendments raising the question of the Beijing Olympics.
WUC’s campaign against holding the Olympics in Beijing started last year, when the Uyghur organization instructed Mr. Michael Polak, an international human rights barrister and head of Lawyers for Uyghur Rights in London, UK, to draft a formal written complaint to the IOC’s Ethics Commission through its Ethics and Compliance Office, which was submitted on 13 August 2020.
In September 2020, the Olympic bureaucracy responded twice. First, the Olympic Committee Executive Director, Mr. Christophe Dubi, answered to a separate letter sent to IOC by WUC President, Mr. Dolkun Isa, making no reference to the August Ethics Committee complaint. Second, the Ethics Committee responded to Mr. Polak’s August complaint, by simply referring to Mr. Dubi’s previous letter to Mr. Isa.
Mr. Polak responded in turn on September 19, “asking why the reply had come from the Executive Director of the Olympic Committee, given that the IOC Executive was one of the subjects of the complaint, and this complaint was directed to the Ethics and Compliance Office for transmission to the Ethics Commission”. The February 2021 letter from WUC to Mr. Ban Ki Moon directly points at Ms. Pâquerette Girard-Zappelli, IOC Ethics and Compliance Officer, who, according to WUC, in the case of China did not follow the “Rules of Procedure Governing Cases of Possible Breach of Ethical Principles’’ as she should have done.
Uyghurs are of course not alone in this urgent request. International human rights organizations such as Citizen Power Initiatives for China, chaired in Washington, D.C. by Chinese dissident Dr. Yang Jianli, and Vienna -based Forum for Religious Freedom Europe, chaired by Dr. Aaron Rhodes and directed by journalist Peter Zoehrer, are urging states and athletes to condition their participation in the Beijing Olympics on specific improvements in China’s human rights practices.
These include “an independent and transparent United Nations investigation of massive detention centers in Xinjiang where Chinese authorities have confined as many as three million Uyghurs and other Chinese Muslims, and in Tibet, where Tibetan linguistic and cultural identity is harshly repressed. The immediate release of detained, peaceful pro-democracy political figures and protesters in Hong Kong. The immediate release of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been arbitrarily detained in secret prisons since December 2018. The release of Dr. Wang Bingzhang, founder of the overseas Chinese Democracy Movement, who has been serving a life sentence since 2002, allowing the ailing 73-year-old to join his family, who are United States and Canadian citizens.”
Simply put, China is clearly unworthy to host an international event of peace and harmony such as the Olympic Games as it continues to use brutal systematic and premeditated violence against individual and groups, and IOC should not give the impression to be its partner in crime.
It is not probable that the IOC bureaucracy will act, and the economic interests at stake are enormous. However, single Parliaments and governments in democratic countries may vote for a boycott, creating a critical mass that the IOC in the end will not be able to ignore. What originally looked like a Quixotic enterprise is becoming a serious international political project.