Beijing Olympics get ‘crackdown gold’ in labor report


A global trade union body joined a long list of human rights activists to challenge China’s ownership of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics and singled out the International Olympic Committee for acquiescing in the face of allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity that allegedly took place in the host country.

The Belgium-based International Trade Union Confederation released its report on Tuesday – “China: a gold medal for repression” – highlight human rights violations. He said a copy was sent to IOC President Thomas Bach.

Alleged abuses include: forced labor, imprisonment of trade unionists and democracy advocates in Hong Kong, intimidation of the country’s LBGTI community and crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities under the pretext of “anti-separatism.” and counter-terrorism ”.

“We are trying to get the IOC to act on a set of basic principles around human rights,” Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, told The Associated Press in an interview.

“We want governments to take a stand to defend the safety of their own athletes, and we want sponsors to really re-examine their association with the Beijing Winter Olympics,” she added. “You have big companies supporting these Olympics that really should live up to the values ​​they say they respect, which are basic human rights. “

Some biggest sponsors who collectively pay billions to the IOC include names known as Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Visa, Toyota, Alibaba and Procter & Gamble.

The ITUC report comes just under three months before the Olympics opens on February 4. There have been repeated calls for a boycott, with targeted sponsors and broadcasters, and asks the IOC to move the Games outside of China. Protesters were also arrested during a torch lighting ceremony last month in Greece.

Burrow, who grew up in Australia, referred to the position of fellow Australian John Coates, the influential IOC Vice President and a powerful ally of Bach.

“John always puts the Olympics ahead of human rights,” Burrow said. “But we hope that people like John and many others around the world who live in democratic countries will understand that it is not okay to just treat China like another nation … China simply cannot operate in the global economy without responding to the crimes they commit People matter People have rights.

Previous activists’ overtures mostly met with silence from the IOC and Chinese organizers who are currently holding test events for the Games.

Enes Kanter, an NBA Boston Celtics center, was one of the few athletes to speak out against human rights abuses in China, the Olympics, and the internment of at least 1 million Muslim Uyghurs and others. ethnic minorities in western China.

Kanter, a Muslim with roots in Turkey, called Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” and criticized human rights in much of China.

Celtics games were then put on hold in China, a blow to the NBA which draws millions in revenue from China.

Using the pandemic as a justification, organizers and the IOC plan to implement a zero tolerance COVID-19 policy that will also stifle unhindered access to media during the Olympics.

Participants in Beijing will need to be vaccinated to enter – or quarantined for 21 days – and undergo daily testing. Journalists will be locked in a “closed loop” which will limit travel. The measures will be more stringent than protocols for the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, which allowed free movement across the country after a 14-day quarantine period.

Last week, the Chinese Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Beijing released a list of 31 points of concern regarding media access to the Games.

“Over the past year, the foreign press has been continuously blocked in its coverage of the preparations for the Olympic Winter Games, refused to participate in routine events, and have been barred from visiting sports venues in China. … Such behavior does not respect the IOC’s own Olympic Charter, in which Rule 48 requires the committee to take “all necessary measures to ensure the fullest coverage by the various media and the widest possible audience in the world. world for the Games ”. “

The United States government responded to the statement.

“We urge PRC officials not to restrict the freedom of movement and access of journalists, and to ensure that they stay safe and can report freely, including at the Olympics and Paralympics,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a scheduled briefing.

Several US senators led by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney have proposed a diplomatic boycott by the United States that would allow American athletes to attend but not U.S. government employees.

Even without a boycott, restrictions related to COVID-19 will significantly limit who enters China.

Faced with criticism for hosting the Games in China, the IOC says its only business is sport, not politics.

“We must keep this neutrality. It is too precious what we are trying to defend, ”said IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch on Tuesday during an online briefing on preparations for the Beijing Games he is overseeing. “We are what we are and we can do what we can do. “

Samaranch, whose father was a Spanish diplomat who then led the IOC from 1980 to 2001, said the Olympic body partner in Beijing was the local organizing committee that had to respect human rights in the part of its operations.

“We are not discussing anything with the Chinese government” over rights, Samaranch said.

The IOC has an observer seat at the United Nations, and Bach touted his efforts to bring the two Koreas together at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Earlier this year, he traveled to Hiroshima, using the bombed-out city to bind the IOC to world peace. His supporters often speak of Bach as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Bach said the Olympics should be “on neutral ground” although the Olympic charter also says that the aim is to promote a “peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”.

Largely unhindered promises of access were reluctantly granted by China for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, under pressure from the IOC. It’s different 180 degrees this time.

“In 2022, she (China) doesn’t really care what the rest of the world thinks about it,” Chinese sports historian Xu Guoqi told AP in a recent interview.

“Now he’s doing his best to tell the world about his intentions. If the world doesn’t listen, so be it.

___ AP sports writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report


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