The International Olympic Committee (IOC), in choosing China to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, faces massive challenges in fulfilling its expressed commitment to human rights, Human Rights Watch said today. Beijing’s selection was announced on July 31, 2015, at the 128th IOC Congress in Kuala Lumpur. The only other contender – Kazakhstan – also has a dismal rights record.
“The Olympic motto of ‘higher, faster, and stronger’ is a perfect description of the Chinese government’s assault on civil society: more peaceful activists detained in record time, subject to far harsher treatment,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “In choosing China to host another Games, the IOC has tripped on a major human rights hurdle.”
The Olympic Charter requires all hosts to uphold media freedom and identifies “human dignity” as essential to the Olympic movement. In December 2014, in response to international pressure generated by rights abuses in China and Russia as host countries, the IOC adopted reforms known as Olympic Agenda 2020. This includes specific requirements for host cities to ensure labor rights, uphold press freedom, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and defend “human dignity.”
The IOC’s awarding of the 2022 Olympics to China is a slap in the face to China’s besieged human rights activists. Over the next seven years, the IOC has enormous work to do in China to win the credibility on human rights that will ensure a successful Olympics.
The IOC Evaluation Commission’s January 2015 report on China notes that the IOC “received assurances” from Chinese authorities on human rights, but failed to provide any detail. The IOC has no human rights monitoring mechanisms in place to measure a host country’s respect for these rules.
China’s current rights environment is at its worst in the last two decades. Under President Xi Jinping, the authorities have arbitrarily detained and imprisoned hundreds of activists, and harassed and shuttered several key nongovernmental organizations. The government has renewed efforts to maintain a chokehold on expression on the Internet and in the media, and has promoted greater adherence to “correct ideology” and the supremacy of the Chinese Communist Party. It has drafted or enacted new laws that equate criticisms of the government or Communist Party as threats to state security and set up a new National Security Commission that primarily focuses on maintaining control over society.
Human Rights Watch urges the IOC to:
• Immediately begin consultations with independent civil society organizations and activists from China to address their concerns about China’s hosting the 2022 Games;
• Establish effective and independent monitoring mechanisms to track and report on regression on labor rights, press freedom, discrimination, and all areas where “assurances” were received, and commit to publicly speak out on and help ensure redress for these rights violations when they occur; and
• Publicly make clear that significant Olympics-related human rights violations will result in the ultimate sanction of relocating the 2022 Games.
“The IOC’s awarding of the 2022 Olympics to China is a slap in the face to China’s besieged human rights activists,” Richardson said. “Over the next seven years, the IOC has enormous work to do in China to win the credibility on human rights that will ensure a successful Olympics.”