Tibet campaigners warn IOC that giving 2022 Games to Beijing will be “making the same mistake twice”

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Report submitted before IOC’s China visit stresses failure of 2008 Games to improve human rights A global coalition of more than 175 Tibet organisations will today submit a report to Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), calling on the IOC to reject Beijing’s bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2022. IOC members are due to visit Beijing from 24 - 28 March. The only other candidate is Almaty in Kazakhstan. The report, Losing the bet on human rights: Beijing and the Olympic Games (1), will be hand-delivered to the IOC in Lausanne today and distributed to IOC members. Its title highlights the IOC’s claims when awarding the 2008 Summer Olympics to Beijing in 2001 that human rights would improve as a result. The then-IOC director general said the IOC was “taking the bet that we will see many changes” regarding human rights in China (2). As the report details, human rights abuses by China increased before the Games, culminating in the brutal suppression of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in March 2008 under the gaze of the world’s media. Since 2008, respect for human rights in China has declined further, with a concerted attack on dissent and human rights defenders since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012 and an increase in repression in Tibet (3). Noting the failure of the 2001 decision to ameliorate repression in China, the report goes on: “the Sochi Winter Olympics have again shown that the award of the Games is no deterrent to governmental policies starkly at odds with the Olympic spirit, and that the politics of a host nation can and does tarnish the reputation and aspirations of the Olympic movement. The IOC now faces the real possibility of making the same mistake again.” Between 2001 and 2008, Tibet campaigners pressed the IOC to fulfil undertakings it made regarding repression in Tibet and human rights, including the assertion by IOC President Jacques Rogge that “if human rights are not acted upon to our satisfaction, we will act” (4). These undertakings were not met. Although the IOC has recently introduced measures to safeguard some human rights in host cities (5), Thomas Bach recently stated that the award of the Games does not condone the activities of host countries and that the IOC cannot change “political systems” (6). The public campaign by Tibet activists received worldwide media attention in 2007 and 2008, including for disruptions to the torch relay, a demonstration on the Great Wall of China and the arrest of and deportation of campaigners in Beijing (7). The report concludes: “China’s performance between 2001 and 2008 makes it abundantly clear that the award of the Games itself will have no positive impact on its performance regarding human rights in China or Tibet. In fact since 2008, China has become more aggressive and unrelenting in its attitude to human rights in Tibet and less willing to engage in dialogue regarding a lasting resolution. Without rigorous and robust policies in place to address human rights abuses . . . for Beijing, the Games will be an effective endorsement of its failure to improve human rights since 2008, not an incentive for future improvements.” Alistair Currie of Free Tibet said: “The IOC’s blind faith in 2001 that the award of the Games would improve human rights in China was proved empty in 2008. The effect of the Games wasn’t increased sensitivity to human rights in Beijing but increased self-confidence that abusing them is no problem on the world stage. IOC members understand that the reputation of the Games has taken a battering. Whether awarding the Games to Almaty will help the human rights situation there is a question they must address but as far as China goes, that question has been repeatedly and comprehensively answered. The Games must not go to Beijing.” Tenzin Jigdal of the International Tibet Network, Dharmasala, India, said: “It would be foolish on the IOC's part to bet again on things improving in Tibet. Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympics on the same premise and events showed how unrealistic it was. Instead we saw widespread suppression and crackdown in Tibet. The IOC should also be mindful that their wrong decision last time caused global outcry and led to a worldwide campaign by Tibet’s supporters. The IOC should be in no doubt that this will happen again.” Losing the bet on human rights: Beijing and the Olympic Games is co-authored by Free Tibet (www.freetibet.org), Tibet Initiative Deutschland (www.tibet-initiative.de), Tibetan Youth Association in Europe (www.tibetanyouth.org) and the International Tibet Network (www.tibetnetwork.org) -ends- Contacts: Alistair Currie, Free Tibet (London, GMT): E: Alistair@freetibet.org T: +44 (0)207 324 4605 Tenzin Jigdal, International Tibet Network (India, GMT + 5.30hrs) E: jigdal@tibetnetwork.org T: +988 225 5516 Notes for editors International Olympic Committee timetable: 14 - 18 February 2015: IOC visited Almaty 24 - 28 March 2015 IOC visits Beijing May/June 2015: IOC release evaluation report 9 -10 June 2015: Candidate city briefing to IOC members 31 July 2015: Winner announced in Kuala Lumpur (1) The report and full list of supporting organisations available at http://tibetnetwork.org/olympics2022/ (2) Comments regarding human rights in China made by IOC members and officials: "We are totally aware there is one issue on the table, and that is human rights. Either you say because of some serious human rights issues, we close the door, deliver a vote that is regarded as a sanction and hope things evolve better. The other way is to bet on openness. We are taking the bet that we will see many changes." IOC Director General François Carrard, IOC news conference, 13 July 2001 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/sports/olympics/03longman.html?pagewanted=print&_r=0 "We are convinced that the Olympic Games will improve human rights in China." IOC president Jacques Rogge, BBC Hardtalk, April 2002 "The decision in 2001 to give the Games to China was made in the hope of improvement in human rights and, indeed, the Chinese themselves said that having the Games would accelerate progress in such matters." -- IOC member Dick Pound in his book Inside the Olympics (John Wiley & Sons, 2006) (3) In March 2008, five months before the Beijing Games, a mass uprising against Chinese rule took place in Tibet. China’s response was repression leading to the detention of around 3,000 Tibetans and at least 100 deaths. Since 2008, repression has continued in Tibet. See http://freetibet.org/about/human-rights-tibet (4) Christian Science Monitor, 5 August 2008 http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2008/0805/games-spur-little-progress-on-rights (5) International Olympic Committee http://www.olympic.org/documents/olympic_agenda_2020/olympic_agenda_2020-20-20_recommendations-eng.pdf (6) SI Olympics 6 March 2015 http://olympics.si.com/olympics/2015/03/06/ap-oly-ioc-bach-politics (7) The international campaign by Tibet activists in the run-up to the Beijing Games received international media coverage. For example: Sky News 7 August 2007 http://news.sky.com/story/532160/free-tibet-protest-on-chinas-great-wall; BBC 6 April 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7332942.stm; New York Times 7 April 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/07/world/europe/07torch.html?_r=0; The Guardian 25 March 2008 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/mar/25/tibet.olympicgames2008; Telegraph 15 August 2008 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/2565080/Beijing-Olympics-British-man-Phil-Kirk-deported-over-Tibet-protest.html International Tibet Network is a global coalition of 180 Tibet Groups working to end the human rights violations in Tibet and restore the Tibetan people's right under international law to determine their own political, economic, social, religious, and cultural status - www.TibetNetwork.org