World Uyghur Congress Calls for Canceling Winter Olympics in China

BEIJING, CHINA - MARCH 25: A Chinese man wears a protective mask as he walks past the Olympics rings at the Olympic park on March 25, 2020 in Beijing, China. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to no later than the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) …
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC), an advocacy group for the ethnic minority native to western China, issued a call Thursday for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to revoke hosting privileges from Beijing for 2022.

The capital city won a bid to host the Winter Olympics in two years despite widespread human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minority people in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost province. Overwhelming evidence suggests the Chinese Communist Party also traffics in the live extraction and sale of human organs from political dissidents and religious minorities, engages in the widespread erasure of native culture in Tibet, imprisons and tortures Falun Gong practitioners and Christians, and has spearheaded efforts to violently subdue democracy activists in Hong Kong, nominally autonomous from the Communist Party.

American officials believe China is currently interning between 1 and 3 million Muslims, mostly Uyghurs, in concentration camps.

China claims the camps are “vocational training centers” where underprivileged minorities learn trade skills. In reality, those who have escaped the camps say many interned there are professionals with as high as doctorate-level degrees. Instead of learning trade skills, they are forced to renounce Islam, worship dictator Xi Jinping, and learn Mandarin, a language not native to Xinjiang. Chinese officials also reportedly engage in physical abuse, force abortion, forced sterilization, rape, and slave labor, which has tainted at least 83 international companies and trickled down into the manufacture of sanitary masks used to prevent Chinese coronavirus.

“The message from the IOC should be simple, genocide, crimes against humanity, and severe human rights violations cannot be tolerated and go against everything that the Olympic movement values and represents,” the WUC said in a statement Thursday. “Any country actively committing such heinous acts must not be allowed to host an event centered on humanity, solidarity, peace, and fraternity. To allow China to host the 2022 Winter Olympics would stain the good name and intentions of the Olympic Movement.”

The organization denounced the aforementioned human rights abuses and added several others occurring outside the camps, such as acts of cultural genocide against Uyghur places of worship and cemeteries.

“Uyghur mosques, graveyards, shrines and other sites of cultural, religious or historical importance have been destroyed as the CCP tries to erase any physical representation of the Uyghur identity,” the WUC detailed. “Uyghur language is banned in many schools and public places in East Turkistan [Xinjiang]. Religious persecution [occurs], in which the Chinese government has criminalized growing long beards, wearing an Islamic veil, owning a Quran and even the most quotidian religious practices.”

“The WUC calls on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reconsider allowing China to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and to urgently address concerns raised by the WUC and other parties,” the statement read, “given that the Chinese government is actively committing genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, and other atrocities against Uyghurs.”

The organization detailed the steps it has taken to advocate for a new host location for the Winter Olympics, noting that multiple sporting organizations have essentially ignored its pleas.

“WUC representatives have tried to meet with the IOC, but were not granted an audience. On Monday, 27 July 2020, the WUC followed up by sending an official letter to the President of the IOC, Mr. Thomas Bach, urging him to reconsider China as a host. We are eagerly awaiting his reply,” the organization noted.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) also ignored a legal action by the WUC for an investigation into Beijing’s hosting.

“Despite paying the required fee and making numerous attempts to contact the CAS, the WUC has still received no official reply or information from the CAS on this case. We furthermore call on the IOC to accept arbitration on this issue,” the group asserted.

The president of the World Uyghur Congress, Dolkun Isa — who has personally endured harassment by the Chinese state, including a frivolous request for an Interpol “red alert” that may have led to China disappearing the president of Interpol — also issued a statement to the IOC.

“If the International Olympic Committee allows the Chinese government to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, it will go down as an historically shameful decision,” Isa said. “The IOC cannot claim ignorance of China’s genocide against the Uyghur people. If the IOC allows China to host the 2022 Winter Games, it is willfully and intentionally abandoning the values and principles that underpin the Olympic Movement.”

The WUC’s statement follows the publication of a bombshell report this week by ESPN revealing widespread physical abuse of the mostly Uyghur trainees at the NBA’s training camp in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang — putting into question the integrity of any Chinese sports endeavor. ESPN published the report a week after NBA officials claimed to have terminated the association’s relationship with the camp.

“American coaches at three NBA training academies in China told league officials their Chinese partners were physically abusing young players and failing to provide schooling, even though commissioner Adam Silver had said that education would be central to the program, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the complaints,” ESPN reported. “One American coach who worked for the NBA in China described the project as ‘a sweat camp for athletes.'”

Beijing last hosted a round of Olympic Games, the Summer Olympics, in 2008. Those Games were marred by a damning report revealing that China was using child labor to generate cheap souvenirs and licensed products to sell to tourists. Even its high-profile participants faced human rights abuses. Zhang Yimou, the film director who orchestrated the Opening Ceremonies that year, received the job after years of censorship and hostility from the government, beginning with censorship of his film To Live, a condemnation of Maoist communism that resulted in Zhang and his wife, lead actress Gong Li, banned from making movies for two years. Zhang and Gong were also fined and publicly condemned for having three children, a violation of the communist “One Child” policy that required women to kill all subsequent children. China continued restricting Zhang’s work after his participation in the Summer Olympics, pulling his Cultural Revolution film One Second from the Berlin Film Festival in 2019.

“The 2008 Beijing Games have put an end — once and for all — to the notion that these Olympics are a ‘force for good,’” Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said after the Games were over. “The reality is that the Chinese government’s hosting of the Games has been a catalyst for abuses, leading to massive forced evictions, a surge in the arrest, detention, and harassment of critics, repeated violations of media freedom, and increased political repression.”

“Not a single world leader who attended the Games or members of the IOC seized the opportunity to challenge the Chinese government’s behavior in any meaningful way,” she added. “Will anyone wonder, after the Games are over, why the Chinese government remains intransigent about human rights?”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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