Human rights activists call for boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

As the Olympic flame was handed to organizers of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, Greek officials gave it to human rights activists.

Human rights activists call for boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Activist groups also disrupted Monday's flame-lighting ceremony in southern Greece. They accused the International Olympic Committee, accusing it of legitimizing rights abuses in China, by allowing the Winter Games in Beijing to proceed.

Mandie McKeown, executive director of the International Tibet Network, stated that "We have yet again witnessed the hypocrisy(of the IOC)" at an Athens news conference. "They are handing over (the Olympic torch) to a host country that is so far removed form holding any of the Olympic ideals, it seems that we're living in some kind of warped reality."

International criticism has been levelled at China's treatment Uyghur Muslims living in the northwest region Xinjiang, Hong Kong's crackdown on protesters and its policies towards Tibet and Taiwan.

The IOC, which held the 2008 Summer Olympics at Beijing, has resisted the issue and said it was out of its purview.

Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, stressed Monday that the Games should be considered a neutral political ground in his speech at the ancient Olympia stadium.

On Tuesday, activists argued that China's human rights have declined since 2008. They claimed that the Summer Games had "embolded" China.

Beijing began a brutal crackdown four years ago. It swept up to a half million Uyghurs, and other predominantly Muslim minorities, into detention camps or prisons. Chinese authorities claim that their goal is to integrate the Uyghurs, a historically Muslim group with 13 million members, not to eradicate them.

Zumretay Archin, program and advocacy manager at the World Uyghur Congress, stated that if this press conference were to be held in China, Uyghurs would end up in camps and possibly face sexual abuse and torture like millions of their fellow Uyghurs. "The Olympic Games have been handed to a country that is actively engaged in genocide."

The administration of President Joe Biden has reiterated the U.S. view that China's persecution of Uyghurs was "genocide." Biden also pressed other leaders to criticize China's forced labor practices in their joint statement.

Arkin asked the G-7 to follow that up by banning the Beijing Games.

She stated that she believes that there is a better chance ahead of the Games if governments pledge to boycott...than we had in 2008."

Pema Doma (the campaign director for Students for a Free Tibet) said that the IOC was making a "very big mistake."

Doma was briefly held by police in Ancient Olympia prior to Monday's protest.

The handover ceremony took place in Athens' renovated marble stadium, where the first modern Olympics took place in 1896.

Three activists were arrested Monday for entering the Ancient Olympia archaeological site during the flame lighting. They were waving a Tibetan flag, a banner reading "No genocide plays," and two other protesters were taken into custody in Athens after protests at the Acropolis.

These seven were released but the three remaining are still in police custody in southern Greece.

From February 4-20, the Beijing Winter Olympics will be held. Only mainland Chinese spectators will be permitted to attend.

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