Abysmal Human Rights Conditions & Systematic Failure to Play by Rules Make China Unfit to Host 2022 Winter Games

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Abysmal Human Rights Conditions & Systematic Failure to Play by Rules Make China Unfit to Host 2022 Winter Games

CHRD sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee on July 27, 2015, urging the IOC not to award the Winter Games to the Chinese government until there is independently verifiable and substantial improvement of human rights in China.

Esteemed Members of the International Olympic Committee:

On July 31, 2015, when you select the host city for the 2022 Winter Games, we hope you will have given very serious attention to China’s abysmal human rights conditions that have rapidly degenerated since the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. This record includes systematic suppression of free expression and peaceful assembly and association. These problems are especially evident in the government’s escalating crackdown on anti-discrimination and labor rights NGOs, on human rights defenders (including lawyers), and often in deadly discriminatory suppression in the ethnic Tibetan and Uighur regions.

The government in Beijing has no credibility in matters of keeping its promises and playing by the rules. 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. It has routinely infringed upon the rights that its own constitution and laws promise to citizens. Such a government is clearly unfit to stage the Winter Olympics. To honor Beijing by awarding it another Olympic Games, even as its gross violations of the human rights of the Chinese people glare back at us, amounts to telling the victims of the Chinese government’s rights abuses that their human dignity does not count.


CHRD hopes the International Olympic Committee will consider China’s poor human rights record and decide not to award the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing.

To award the Chinese government the honor of hosting the Olympic Games will undermine the IOC’s credibility in upholding the principles set forth both in the Olympic Charter and in the IOC’s new human rights guidelines in the Host City Contracts, which are now being put to the test for the first time. In advance of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Beijing government offered assurances that it would improve its rights situation; yet, on the contrary, as many human rights groups (including CHRD) documented, serious human rights violations directly resulted from preparations for the Games, including illegal labor practices, forced evictions, press control, and the silencing of dissidents. Since 2008, and especially in the last two years, human rights conditions in China have degenerated rapidly.

To cite just a few examples of this degeneration (more violations are documented in the appendix below), Beijing is the city where:

  • Cao Shunli, a human rights defender, was tortured to death at a detention center in March 2014, and no one has faced investigation;
  • At least a dozen human rights lawyers are under criminal detention, several of them since a crackdown that began on July 10, 2015;
  • Seventy-year old journalist Gao Yu has recently begun a seven-year prison sentence for her reporting on government abuses;
  • Liu Xia, the wife of China’s jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been under house arrest since 2010.

Only four months after the 2008 Beijing Games, police arrested Liu Xiaobo, a poet and government critic, who later won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. If the IOC selects Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Games, it will be the first time in history that the IOC awards the Games to a country with the knowledge that the future host is imprisoning a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The human rights guidelines that the IOC reform produced (known as Olympic Agenda 2020) were a most welcome outcome. Now, the IOC has its first important chance to show that the Guidelines have real meaning in the real world.

A provisional award of the Games to China on condition that it improve human rights before 2022—or otherwise lose the right to host the Games—would be based on neither trust nor verification. One serious problem with this conditional awarding is that the IOC has no monitoring mechanism to verify a host country’s implementation of its promises. And independent and credible human rights organizations have documented overwhelming evidences that since the IOC awarded the 2008 Summer Games to Beijing, the Chinese government had broken its promises and kept the 2008 Games, and it has since moved on with escalating crackdowns.

A better position is this: No awarding of the Games to China, conditional or otherwise, should happen until there is independently verifiable and substantial improvement in the government’s human rights record.


Renee Xia

International Director

Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders


More on China’s Escalating Human Rights Violations and Broken Promises to IOC

Suppression an Affront to Standards Set by Olympic Charter & Host City Contract

By awarding the Games to Beijing, the IOC would defy the Olympic Charter’s Fundamental Principle to “promote a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” The death in detention on July 12, 2015, of respected Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche—and the refusal of the government to allow his family the dignity to bury his body according to religious customs—is an egregious example of the Chinese government’s failure to honor this principle.

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Since President Xi Jinping came to power in March 2013, at least 1,800 human rights defenders have been arbitrarily detained, many in police actions authorized under a pretext of “maintaining stability.” The most recent wave of suppression commenced less than three weeks ago, when police began detaining and questioning more than 300 lawyers and activists. As of today, 29 people remain in some form of secret detention or have been disappeared. Like previous clampdowns under Xi, this current one has focused on terrorizing and intimidating Chinese citizens who seek to build a peaceful and just society, while robbing them of their dignity, often through torture and other inhumane treatment.

Several Chinese government policies and practices violate the new human rights sections in the Host City Contract, including clauses prohibiting any form of discrimination, and strengthening the protection of environmental, health, safety, and labor laws with respect to Olympic development projects. In the regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, repressive and discriminatory policies towards ethnic minorities are growing more intense. The detention of five women in March and raids on an anti-discrimination NGO indicate a worsening situation for moderate advocates fighting discrimination on issues of disabilities, health, LGBT, and women’s rights. The government continues to actively suppress labor NGOs, which assist migrant workers with worker safety training, legal assistance, and cultural education. Such groups were formed because government-run unions do not protect workers.

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The government’s harsh response to dissent and the work of independent NGOs leaves serious doubts about the written assurances it made in applying to host the 2022 Games. These assurances, all in areas where China falls woefully short by any measure, relate to human rights, the right to demonstrate, media freedom to report on the Games with no Internet restrictions, labor rights, displacement, and environmental protection. The “assurances” are unlikely to be respected, particularly in view of recently passed or proposed legislation in China. On July 1, the National Security Law was enacted, a law which the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has described as “extraordinarily broad” and one that “leaves the door wide open” for further restrictions on human rights and civil society. Draft legislation on Internet security, counter-terrorism, and management of overseas NGOs are likely to soon be enacted in their current forms, giving the police broad powers to suppress human rights in violation of the government’s “written assurances” to the IOC.

China’s Rights Records Since 2008 Games Discredit Its “Written Assurances” to IOC

China’s track records in hosting two Olympic events, the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2014 Youth Summer Olympics in Nanjing, are tainted by human rights violations by the government, as documented by CHRD and many other independent human rights organizations.

During the 2008 Summer Olympics, petitioners and potential protestors were put under surveillance or house arrest, forcibly committed to psychiatric detention facilities, sent to illegal and secret detention facilities known as “black jails,” or even jailed for years. The announcement of the creation of several “peaceful assembly and protest zones” in Beijing for the 2008 Games proved to be more rhetoric than substance. Chinese citizens were forced to apply to enter, and those who did submit applications faced serious consequences. One such individual, Ji Sizun (纪斯尊), served a three-year prison sentence for submitting an application. He is once again languishing in a Chinese detention facility for peacefully supporting protests in Hong Kong, a stark reminder that the human rights situation has not improved as a result of the Beijing Olympics.

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The government’s promise to relax control over foreign media for the 2008 Games fell far short, as foreign journalists still faced limitations on Chinese citizens they could interview on certain “sensitive” topics. Some Chinese individuals who were interviewed by foreign journalists were detained or faced other punishments. In addition, officials continued to bar journalists from accessing certain areas, such as the Tibet Autonomous Region, and several journalists were themselves detained. The Internet continues to be systematically restricted, and media censorship has tightened since the 2008 Olympics.

As CHRD communicated to the IOC in September 2014, police restricted the movements of at least 300 activists and petitioners during the Youth Summer Games in Nanjing, by placing them under house arrest, forcing them to “travel,” holding individuals in “black jails,” and subjecting many to police interrogation. The IOC responded with the assurance that “we take our obligation to defend human rights in Games-related cases quite seriously.”

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