26 January 2022, The Tablet

Human rights concerns persist as Winter Olympics begin

Britain, the United States and Japan have all announced diplomatic boycotts of the games.

Human rights concerns persist as Winter Olympics begin

A woman wearing a protective mask walks past the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic logo January 18, 2022.
CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters

With the Winter Olympics opening in China on 4 February, controversies over human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong democracy protesters, and a continuing crackdown on religious freedom are being highlighted. 

To counter criticism from across the world, Communist authorities have created a strict “bubble” during the Olympics to ensure there is no contact between local residents and visitors. All arrivals will face severe movement restrictions, and will be required to do Covid tests daily, while none will be allowed to leave Olympic venues. The “bubble” means officials can control everything participants see and know of China during this period, including the movements of thousands of journalists covering the games. China is also building permanent quarantine centres. Four massive complexes have gone up in southern China, each with thousands of rooms.

Chongli, a ski resort in Hebei province and host for skiing events during the Winter Olympics, has a history of persecution of Catholics in the region during the imperial and communist regimes. 

From 1990 to 2011, at least a dozen clergy, including bishops and hundreds of local Catholics, were arrested, tortured and jailed in the Chahar region that neighbours Hebei.

Human Rights Watch states that China is in its “darkest period for human rights” since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. They cite alleged instances of arbitrary detention, forced labour, mass surveillance and political indoctrination of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. 

Britain, Canada, Australia, the United States and Japan have all announced diplomatic boycotts of the Games.

Last week, Amnesty International warned that the international community must not allow China to use the Beijing Winter Olympics as a “sports-washing opportunity” and must avoid being “complicit in a propaganda exercise”.

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