Statement on the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022
In 2022, China will hold the Winter Olympics. They will be held against a backdrop of increasing allegations of state-authorised persecution of religious minorities, the Uyghur Muslims, on a scale not seen in many years. The Uyghur people are being held in concentration camps, forcibly sterilised, subjected to forced labour, torture, rape and sexual violence, and many other examples of abuse. There are now comprehensive legal analyses and opinions making a compelling case that the Chinese Government is committing genocide against the Uyghur people. This cannot be ignored.
The moment of the UK learning of the serious risk of genocide has passed. The UK cannot claim that it does not have knowledge of the serious risk of genocide. The duty to prevent should have been triggered at the very moment the UK leaned or should have learned of the serious risk of genocide. This should have been followed by all measures that the UK has in its power to prevent the atrocities, including, but not limited to, diplomatic efforts.
Diplomacy comes in many forms, including international sporting competitions. The UK must not shy away from using all the tools in its diplomatic arsenal when confronting states credibly accused of perpetrating genocide, the crime above all crimes. We must consider the message that participation would send to the Chinese Government: to participate in these Olympics is to enable the Chinese Government conducting with these crimes. To participate in these Olympics is belittle the suffering of the Uyghurs. It sends a message to the victims that their suffering is trumped by diplomatic relations. This is contrary to the word and spirit of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
While sporting events might be seen as ‘above politics’ there are some moral lines that we, as an international community, cannot cross. These games have a strong echo of a previous sporting event: the 1936 Olympics, held in Nazi Germany. Despite the shame brought upon the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because of allowing the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as the Nazi party was persecuting Jews in Germany, the IOC now insists on the 2022 Games while Uyghurs are subjected to persecution on a large scale. We must learn the lessons of the past, and not permit ourselves to again allow a regime conducting large scale human rights abuses to use them as a way to launder their reputation.
We are calling on the IOC to relocate the games. This solution would ensure that athletes are not punished for the genocidal acts, as well as sending a clear message to Chinese Government that we see the atrocities and cannot be silent.
If the IOC does not move the Winter Olympics 2022, then we are calling on the UK Government to either not participate, or if they choose to participate, to not send dignitaries and diplomats to the Games.
To do so would be to be complicit with the attempts to use the Winter Olympics 2022 to launder their reputation, and would renege on what the Foreign Minister stated in the House of Commons as our 'moral duty to respond' (12 Jan 2021).