A group of Chinese intellectuals on Friday called on the International Olympic Committee to reject Beijing's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing, arguing that China failed to keep the promises of openness and press freedom it made for the 2008 Summer Games and that conditions have only gotten worse since.
The IOC members will vote on July 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to decide whether Beijing or Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
A widening crackdown on lawyers and human rights defenders, deepening repression in Buddhist Tibet and Muslim Xinjiang and growing intolerance to press freedom make Beijing a poor candidate, said a letter to the IOC signed by scores of prominent Chinese activists.
"We feel utterly ashamed of such a notorious human rights record, which not only contradicts Beijing’s own promises, but also severely tarnishes the reputation and spirit of the Olympic Games," ," the letter said..
"As Chinese nationals and former citizens, we urge you to reject Beijing’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics as China is now facing a human rights crisis with a scale of violations that is unprecedented since 2008," it said.
Among signatories are Chinese students in the U.S., Canada and Australia, China-based dissidents Hu Jia and Du Yanlin and include exiled human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, lawyer Teng Biao, and economists He Qinglian and Xia Yeliang. Many of the signatories have been forced to live in exile for their political views or activism.
"If the International Olympic Committee awards Beijing the 2022 Winter Olympics, a great event intended to promote solidarity, brotherhood and human development will once again serve a corrupt dictatorship. It will endorse a government that blatantly violates human rights," said the letter.
"Awarding Beijing the Olympics is a contradiction of the Olympics’ goal of “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”
A "mockery" of Olympic principles
To win the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China made promises of unprecedented openness and tolerance but quickly "a mockery of the fine principles that the Olympics stands for, and brought more humiliation than dignity and more sadness than joy to the people in China," the letter said.
"To win the 2008 Olympics, China promised to allow space for Chinese citizens to protest during the games. Spaces were allocated, but those that applied for permission to hold protests were actually arrested, making a mockery of China’s promises to the IOC," it said.
"We expect similar abuses to take place should you award Beijing the 2022 Winter Olympics," the authors added.
The IOC was sent a similar letter on Wednesday by a group of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Southern Mongolians and China's majority Han Chinese, who said the 2008 Beijing Games "did nothing to alleviate human rights abuses in China or enhance freedom" and that "in fact, the situation now in 2015 is far worse than when those Games were awarded in 2001."
"Until the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are prepared to reform and recognize the inherent rights of all people, they should not be awarded the honor of another Olympics. The IOC must recognise that the Olympic spirit and the reputation of the Olympic Games will suffer further damage if the worsening human rights crisis in China is simply ignored," said the July 23 letter.
Friday's letter to the IOC echoed concerns voiced two days earlier by by The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW), which warned that awarding the Olympics to authoritarian regimes encourages them to commit further rights abuses.
"There is plenty of evidence that awarding the Olympics to a country with a bad human rights record readily leads to more abuses linked to the Olympic preparations and events that will tarnish the games," Minky Worden, HRW Global Initiatives director, said in a statement on the group's website.
Since Xi Jinping assumed the presidency in March 2013, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has "unleashed an extraordinary assault on basic human rights and their defenders with a ferocity unseen in recent years," HRW said.
"It has also significantly narrowed space for the press and the Internet, further limiting opportunities for citizens to press for much-needed reforms," the statement said.
The letter to the IOC noted that "more than 250 Chinese human-rights lawyers, legal assistants, activists and their family members have been arrested, interrogated, put under house arrest or made to disappear since July 9.”
Experts say the relentless crackdown on human rights defenders portends a repressive phase not seen in China since the 25 years since People's Liberation Army troops crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.