Human rights groups are urging athletes to pull out of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over China’s overall human rights record, including its treatment of the Uyghurs.
The World Uyghur Congress, Tibet Action Institute, China Against the Death Penalty, Students for a Free Tibet and Campaign for Uyghurs held a press conference on Wednesday, saying a full boycott is the only solution.
“There’s still time to make a difference. This does not have to be the end of the story,” said Lhadon Tethong, of the Tibet Action Institute. “Athletes have incredible power and the platform to change the world.
“If they can speak out for the right of all people to exist, and to live free from fear and repression… that at this point would make a huge difference. We appeal to the athletes to speak out and use their power because they have a lot.”
The groups also called on the athletes to put pressure on the International Olympics Committee for letting China host the games.
The government in China’s Xinjiang province is accused of running what has been described by the U.N. and other rights groups as a genocide against the Uyghurs by putting them in camps and subjecting them to forced labor.
Zumretay Arkin of the World Uyghur Congress said during the press conference that more than 50 of his relatives had been detained in China.
“We have lost entire families and relatives and friends,” Arkin added. “I urge (the athletes) to put themselves in our shoes. They might lose one Olympic Games but we have lost (our families) for we don’t know how long.
“I think it’s important for them to use the power they have, because athletes are not just puppets that the IOC or governments can just control.”
The Chinese government has denied any human rights violations.