Sun, 28 May 2023

London [UK], January 25 (ANI): A webinar held in London on Monday by The Open Forum questioned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision to award China to host the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 amid reports of genocide against the Uyghurs.

"On virtually every level the awarding of the games to China should never have happened. It flies in the face of the Olympic principles as encoded in the Olympic charter by the IOC," said Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham Rt Hon Tim Loughton who also chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet in the UK parliament.

Tim was speaking at a webinar held by The Open Forum, a non-profit forum that opens up discussion on difficult issues.

Spending almost Pound 2.95 billion, China would be hosting the Winter Olympics from February 4 -20 with around 3,000 athletes competing in 109 different events and the Paralympics from March 4-13, with 736 competitors across 78 events.

Once these games happen, China will enter history becoming the only country to have hosted the summer and the winter Olympics.

"How can Beijing be allowed to host a game when they are committing genocide against the Uyghurs. We are less than 11 days of the games and we have seen their threats of silencing our athletes. We have seen the mass imprisonment, torture, surveillance, children forcibly separated from their parents, sexual abuse, systemic rape, LGBTQ plus repression, forced disappearance, patriotic re-education, fake democracy all these horrific realities that people suffer on a daily basis from the Chinese Government," said Chemi Lhamo, a Tibetan-Canadian activist who has been to prison for her peaceful protests.

Speaking with dejection, having to live in exile away from family who she is unable to contact, Chemi asked with angst, "Does this align with the Olympic morals. If we don't speak now and if genocide is not our red line then what is?"China invaded Tibet in 1950 and since seized control by force. On numerous occasions, Tibetans have attempted to take back their country, especially the uprising in March 1959 is memorable which was clamped down by Chinese authorities with a heavy hand. To mark the resistance, the 10th of March is observed as Tibetan uprising day.

In 2008 when the Olympic torch passed Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, peaceful protests marked the entire stretch. Tibet has been tied up with Syria to be the least free country in the world by Freedom House.

Referring to the plight of the Tibetans, Uyghurs in Xinjiang and that of people of Hong-Kong, John Jones, Campaign, Policy and Research Manager of Free Tibet outlined the report put together by them, "that could highlight all of the various actions open to Government, athletes' Olympic associations, sponsors, and even viewers about how they should reach to these winter games, knowing that there is no one size fits for all."An obvious question that emerges is can the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not be sensitised to these grave human rights violations?Chemi informed the forum, "The activists from our coalition have been working with the IOC since 2015 ahead of the decision to award China another set of games. The IOC could care less."She raised concern about how if the game is allowed to continue then it provides a platform, an opportunity for China to assert their legitimacy, crucial for authoritarian regimes like the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

At this point the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Japan and the list is growing, have declared a diplomatic boycott of the event. This means athletes of the country can participate but no official or heads of state will attend the event.

China's human rights record has been stated as the reason for the boycott. China on the other hand has denied all allegations.

Tim is of the opinion that a diplomatic boycott is the best way forward; else it's the athlete who gets punished. Calling diplomatic boycott, a "good start," Chemi said, "We must go further than that ... China pretends to be unbothered but is definitely concerned. Hence why we need broadcasters like the BBC, NBC, CBC, CBC, sports presenters, athletes, advertisers, sponsors, Coke, Air BB, Omega to wake up and be on the right side of history.

She encouraged even viewers to join there, "I will not watch campaign."Jones informed the panel how there have been concerted efforts to reach out to sponsors to sensitise them to the atrocities carried out by the Chinese government and in some cases peaceful protests have been staged too. Initiatives like these continue.

Pre-empting protests if the event is allowed to carry on Jones said, "There has to be consequences for awarding these prestigious events regimes that is almost certainly carrying out genocide, mass torture, and to press home the point that giving the CCP a chance to host these winter games is unforgivable and their needs to be a backlash for it."Loughton suggested furthering dialogue with the IOC officials but if they, "Won't take responsibility, then it is up to us who have the voice to speak out and who have platforms."He suggested sanctions for sponsors and for "People to vote with their feet," refusing to use the products associated with the Beijing Olympics.

Chemi urged the forum to act, "just with your money, mouth and voice you can make a difference ... it's time we all do it..."An estimated one million Uyghurs are in concentration camps, treated as little more than chattel, and enslaved. Both men and women endure systematic physical and sexual abuse, including rape and torture. Young men remain absent from the streets of Urumqi, and women are sterilised and forced to marry men from the dominant Han Chinese ethnic group. (ANI)

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