Human rights groups have requested some of the world’s top broadcasters, including the American network NBC, to cancel plans to cover the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year. The Winter Games are set to begin on February 4th.
The appeal is made in an open letter signed by rights organizations representing minorities in China, including Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kong residents, and others.
The letter, acquired by the Associated Press, was sent to NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell and senior foreign broadcast executives on Tuesday. NBC is paying $7.75 billion US for the rights to the next six Olympics and collaborates closely with the International Olympic Committee, which is situated in Switzerland.
These payments are expected to account for up to 40% of the IOC’s overall revenue. According to the letter, broadcasters risk “becoming complicit” in China’s “worsening human rights atrocities.”
The letter comes only days after the postponed Summer Olympics and Paralympics concluded in Tokyo, focusing attention on the IOC and its selection of Beijing.
The International Olympic Committee has frequently stated that it is merely a sports organization, and its head, Thomas Bach, has refused to discuss or criticise the oppression of Uyghurs or other minorities in China. The IOC is also facing boycott demands, pressure on some of its 15 biggest sponsors, and athletes speaking out about the terrible circumstances they are in.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole says Canada should consider boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympics after Chinese courts upheld Robert Schellenberg’s death sentence on drug smuggling charges. 1:31
Intel’s vice president has stated that he agrees with the opinion that genocide is taking place.
“All of your firms are in grave danger of being part of China’s plan to sport wash’ the egregious and escalating human rights violations and embolden the Chinese government,” the open letter states. “By airing Beijing 2022, your firms would legitimise these acts and promote what has been dubbed the ‘Genocide Games.'”
China’s foreign ministry has consistently decried the “politicisation of sports,” claiming that any Olympic boycott would be “doomed to failure.” It has also denied carrying out genocide against the Uyghurs.
The Beijing Olympics will most likely be attended by a small number of spectators, and the media will most likely be separated from the athletes, with minimal opportunity for free mobility.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently rejected various calls to relocate the Olympics from Beijing. Some foreign governments and experts accuse China of subjecting Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang, China’s westernmost region, to forced labour, systematic coercive birth control, and torture.
Lhadon Tethong, the co-chair of the International Tibet Network, has stated that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the United Kingdom’s BBC, and Germany’s ARD, all of which receive government funding, should not proceed with any broadcast plans. She asked citizens in those countries to speak out.
“It is unconscionable that NBC, CBC, and other broadcasters intend to assist Chinese leaders in projecting a rosy image of an ‘Olympic Games as usual while they are carrying out genocide against the Uyghurs and engaging in a massive campaign of repression against Tibetans and so many others,” Tethong wrote to the Associated Press.
Human rights requirements to host the Olympics begin in 2024
The IOC included human rights requirements several years ago in the host city contract for the 2024 Paris Olympics, but it did not include those guidelines — the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights — for Beijing.
Paris is the first Olympics to contain the standards, long pushed for by human rights groups.
Beijing was the IOC’s choice for the 2022 Winter Olympics, a decision made in 2015 after European bids including Oslo and Stockholm pulled out for financial or political reasons. The IOC was left with only two candidates: Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. IOC members chose Beijing in a 44-40 vote.
Beijing also held the 2008 Summer Olympics, promising at the time that the Games would improve the human rights situation in the country.
“With this letter, we are putting the networks on notice,” Tethong said. “If they broadcast the Beijing 2022 Olympics, they will be complicit.”