Human rights activists say athletes risk being prosecuted for criticizing China at Beijing Olympics

DHARAMSALA, 19 Jan:  Human Rights activists have warned Athletes at the Beijing Olympics that they risk being prosecuted if they criticize China.

Although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has declared “athletes will have freedom of speech when speaking to journalists or posting on social media the soon to be held Winter Games in Beijing, Human rights activists have warned at a briefing hosted by Human Rights Watch that the Olympic Charter rule that prohibits political protests at medal ceremonies also requires ‘applicable public law’ to be followed,” the AP reported.

And with the IOC yet to publicly commit to how the athletes who speak out would be protected, athletes risk being charged for provoking trouble or inciting subversion, the activists have warned.

According to the report, the activists have cited the cases of Chinese Tennis player Peng Shuai, wrestler Navid Afkari, who was executed in Iran in 2020, and the treatment of athletes by the authoritarian regime in Belarus as instances where the IOC did little to protect the athletes.

Commenting on the IOC’s stand, Rob Koehler, the director-general of the Global Athlete group has said that “Silence is complicity and that’s why we have concerns.”

“We know the human rights record and the allowance of freedom of expression in China, so there’s really not much protection,” he has said.

He concluded by saying that “any person with a sane mind who hears all these things, must have concerns.”

“Chinese laws are very vague on the crimes they can use to prosecute people’s free speech,” Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang has said.

The Games are scheduled to begin on 4 Feb, but calls to boycott it continue to get steam over China’s crimes against humanity and genocide.

So far, at least ten countries have announced the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 games including the US, New Zealand, Australia, UK, Canada, Japan, Denmark and the Netherland.

Besides,  the Olympic and Paralympic Committee of countries such as the US, UK, Canada, Dutch and Australia have all reportedly issued similar advice to their  “athletes, coaches and staff to refrain from using their personal electronic devices while in China due to surveillance concerns, and use ‘burner’ phones rather than their cellphones.”


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