Should Beijing host the 2022 Olympics? Chinese human rights group says 'no'

The International Olympic Committee decides between bids from Kazakhstan and Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Games on Friday.

Olivia Harris/Reuters
President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach speaks next to IOC Director of Communications Mark Adams at a news conference following the IOC executive board meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 29, 2015. Beijing and Almaty, bidding for the 2022 Games, are doing last-minute campaigning as the host city for those Olympics will be announced on Friday after a vote of IOC members in the Malaysian capital.

Chinese activists have called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reject the bid from Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Games, in response to what one group has called “abysmal human rights conditions” that have worsened since China hosted the Summer Games in 2008.

The IOC is set to vote in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, in a secret ballot that will determine if the games will be hosted in either Almaty, Kazakhstan or Beijing. If Beijing wins the vote, it would be the first host city to have both summer and winter games, according to The Guardian.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders penned an open letter earlier this week, which the group says it also mailed to the IOC, calling Beijing an “unfit” host of the Olympics. The group called on the IOC to reject China's bid “until there is independently verifiable and substantial improvement in the government’s human rights record.” The group cited a lack of credibility from the Chinese government, and a human rights record that often claims one thing and does another: “as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, it has failed to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has ignored its obligations under international human rights treaties, such as the Convention against Torture, which it has been a party to since 1988,” the letter states.

At the time of the 2008 Summer Games, Human Rights Watch denounced China and the IOC in what it called a “wholesale failure to honor its Olympics-related human rights promises,” and a lack of oversight from the IOC to ensure China fulfilled its commitments.

“The Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee have had seven years to deliver on their pledges that these games would further human rights,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, in a statement from the group in 2008. “Instead, the Beijing Games have prompted a rollback in some of the most basic rights enshrined in China’s constitution and international law.”

HRW specifically cited forced evictions and demolitions of people’s homes to make way for Olympics-related infrastructure, silencing Chinese citizens’ expressed concerns over abuses through intimidation, imprisonment, and house arrest, as well as restrictions on foreign media, among other claims.

Xinhua, one of the largest government-run media companies in China, published an editorial on Monday in support of the bid that emphasized the country’s previous hosting success in delivering accommodations, athletic facilities, medical resources, and the “best returns for commercial partners.”

The editorial did not reference the media or labor issues, except to state that 50 percent of the workforce from the 2008 Games would return for 2022.

At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, where the IOC is hosting executive meetings in the run up to Friday’s vote, bid officials were asked about corruption surrounding the bid after last week's firing of a senior Chinese sports official, according to the the Associated Press.

Xiao Tian was removed as a vice minister of the General Administration of Sport of China earlier in July, following an investigation for possible corruption in June. Mr. Xiao served as vice chairman of China's Olympic committee.

On Tuesday, bid spokesman for Beijing, Wang Hui, said "corruption is a common enemy."

"The Chinese government's position is one of zero tolerance, that is also the wish of all Chinese people," Ms. Wang added. "These cases are irrelevant for the bid. They (individuals) attended bid committee meetings because we wanted broad support. But they assumed no responsibilities whatsoever."

The alternative host for 2022 is Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan. On Wednesday, Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masssimov arrived in Kuala Lumpur to lead Almaty's delegation. The president of Kazakhstan has led since 1991, when the country gained independence from the USSR, despite term limits set for five years. The Guardian reports President Nursultan Nazarbayev won 97.7 percent of the vote in the last election.

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