May 22, 2022

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No freedom of speech | Activists warn Olympians not to criticize China

No freedom of speech |  Activists warn Olympians not to criticize China

(Geneva) Human rights activists have called on Olympians participating in the Beijing Winter Games to refrain from criticizing China because they will face trial.

Posted 12:55 pm

Graham Dunbar
Associated Press

The International Olympic Committee has revealed that athletes will have freedom of expression when talking to reporters or posting their comments on social media during next month’s Winter Games. An Olympic charter rule prohibiting political protest at medal ceremonies, however, requires compliance with “applicable public law”.

Activists at a briefing hosted by Human Rights Watch said the IOC was still publicly committed to how speaking athletes could be protected.

“Silence is a form of complexity and that is why we have concerns,” said Rob Kohler, CEO of Global Athlete Group.

We know about the human rights record and freedom of speech allowance in China, so there really is not much protection.

Rob Kohler, Managing Director, Global Athlete Group.

The IOC has not responded to recent requests to clarify how Chinese law applies to the Beijing Games, which begin on February 4.

“Provocation”, “trouble”, “incitement to destruction”

“Chinese laws are very vague about the allegations used to guarantee the freedom of expression of the people,” said Yakiu Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, citing potential crimes such as “provocation”, “trouble or incitement to sabotage”.

China’s treatment of the predominantly Muslim Uyghur population and its policies towards Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan are under consideration before the Olympics. China has also come under fire after tennis player Peng Shuai disappeared from the public sphere. She wrote on social media that a former celebrity from the ruling Communist Party had sexually assaulted her.

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Executed wrestler

Activists cite examples of what the IOC could do more to protect athletes, including Peng, wrestler Naveed Afkari, who was executed in Iran in 2020, and athletes in Belarus.

Noting concerns over data privacy and espionage in China, some Olympic teams in Europe have advised athletes not to bring personal phones and laptops to Beijing.

“Someone who is a clear listener hearing all these things should be concerned,” Kohler concluded. ⁇