Tibet activists arrested for unfurling Tibetan flag, “No Genocide Games” banner at Olympic torch lighting ceremony

DHARAMSALA, 19 Oct: Tibetan rights activists have been arrested for unfurling a Tibetan flag and a banner that read “No genocide games” at the official torch-lighting ceremony for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in Greece on Monday.

Despite intense security to prevent protests, the London-based advocacy group Free Tibet said that Three Tibetan rights activists- Chemi Lhamo, Jason Leith of London-based Free Tibet, and Fern MacDougal- gained access to a spot near the entrance to the stadium in close approximate to where the ceremony was taking place.

“Their voices could be clearly heard as the high priestess of the temple lit the torch in the parabola,” said Will Hoyles, the media officer of the advocacy group.

The activists staged the protest calling for a full global boycott of the Beijing Olympics, in response to human rights atrocities committed against Tibetans, Uyghurs and Hong Kongers, protest at the ceremony which was attended by the senior IOC figures including the body’s president, Thomas Bach and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou among others. 

Chemi Lhamo argues that “How can China host the 2022 Olympics when they’re carrying out an unprecedented campaign of repression in Tibet, southern Mongolia, bullying Taiwan, destroying Hong Kong democracy, and committing genocide against the Uyghurs. My homeland, Tibet is an information blackout and the CCP is trying to eliminate our identities, so much that it was ranked the least free place tied with Syria.” 

“We’re calling on the sponsors, the broadcasters, the international governments to not be complicit in genocide and to boycott Beijing 2022,” she added.

Jason Leith, a member of Free Tibet’s staff has called out “the IOC for repeatedly put greed ahead of the Olympic ideals” and added that  “so it is up to governments around the world to take action and withdraw their teams from the Beijing 2022.”

“The Chinese government’s reaction to recent sanctions by the UK government shows that it is sensitive to symbolic actions that disrupt its attempts to paint a rosy picture of life under its rule. A full boycott of these Games will send a clear message that the world will no longer stand idly by as the Chinese government continually escalates its abuses.”

While the trio managed to get into the event being held at Greece’s Ancient Olympia before being stopped by security, a number of others were reportedly detained by police outside, reports BBC. 

“Earlier, four more Tibetan activists sitting in a car on a public road near the entrance to the ceremony were arrested by Greek police in unmarked cars,” Free Tibet said and added that “it is unclear what laws they had supposedly broken.

The IOC President Thomas Bach spoke before the protest took place at the ceremony and said “In these difficult times we are still living through, the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 will be an important moment to bring the world together in a spirit of peace, friendship and solidarity.” 

The activists however argue that “There can be no peace without solidarity,” and that they staged the protest in solidarity with people that the Chinese government oppresses and divides from their families and heritage.

“The international community cannot allow China to sportswash these atrocities with the glamour and veneer of respectability the Olympic Games brings.”

On Sunday, just hours ahead of a dress rehearsal for the official Olympic Torch handover, a Tibetan and a Hong Kong activist were detained by the Greek police for unfurling the Tibetan national flag and Hong Kong’s revolution flag.

Despite mounting objections and concerns from activists, rights groups human rights campaigners and some lawmakers from across the world, the Olympics torch will be handed over to the delegation from Beijing 2022 to be flown to China today.

The Games are scheduled to begin on 4 Feb next year, but calls to boycott it continues to get steam over the Chinese government’s ongoing human rights abuses.

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