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Human Rights Watch urges Olympic sponsors to hold China to account for abuses

Human Rights Watch urges Olympic sponsors to hold China to account for abuses
The 2022 Winter Olympics are promoted on a giant screen at an upscale shopping galleria in Beijing in May. Human Rights Watch on Friday called for sponsors of the Games to hold China to account over its human rights abuses. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- With the Beijing Olympics only months away, Human Rights Watch is calling on the Games' corporate sponsors to explain how they are holding China to account over its human rights abuses.

The New York-based nonprofit organization said Friday that the sponsors of the event, which is to kick off early February, should publicly explain how they are using its leverage to address Beijing's human rights abuses and to press the International Olympic Committee to adopt a human rights policy including for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

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"There are just three months until the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, but corporate sponsors remain silent over how they are using their influence to address China's appalling human rights record," Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "They are squandering the opportunity to show their commitment to human rights standards and risk instead being associated with an Olympics tainted by censorship and repression."

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China has been accused of committing grave human rights abuses, including genocide of its Muslim minority Uighur citizens in its Xinjiang region as well as mass political oppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong through a widely criticized national security law.

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In Britain, lawmakers unanimously voted to diplomatically boycott the Olympics, which some have called the "Genocide Games." In the United States, a similar movement being led by Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is being considered.

The International Olympic Committee lists its major sponsors on its website as Airbnb, Alibaba Group, Allianz, GE, Visa and others, which Human Rights Watch said it wrote to in May concerning China's abuse record but only heard back from Allianz, which said it stands behind the Olympics "and our longstanding support for its ideals will never waiver."

The human rights watchdog said it is urging all sponsors to voice support for the IOC to adopt United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights at its next board meeting, press IOC to promulgate a human rights policy, publicly certify that operations in China do not entail labor abuses and press China to fulfill the human rights commitments it made when awarded the Games.

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It's also calling on the sponsors to urge for the release of detained human rights defenders.

"The Olympic corporate sponsors have taken no evident steps to press the IOC to adopt human rights that are now standard across the business world," said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.

"As the clock ticks down toward the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony on Feb. 4, the TOP sponsors should public call on the Olympic system they are paying for to stand up for human rights and put an end to rampant abuses in China," Worden added.

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The call from Human Rights Watch comes days after the International Trade Union Confederation, a global trade union, released a scathing report on China's human rights abuses titled "China: A gold medal for repression."

The report lists five repressive policies of the Chinese Community Party, such as its repression and imprisonment of pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, intimidation of LGBT people, violations of fundamental rights at work, repression and exploitation of ethnic minorities and silence and obstruction over the spread of COVID-19.

"The sports of the Olympics have rules, but the Chinese Communist Party has shown that it has little or no respect for international laws and standards and is becoming increasingly repressive," ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said in a statement. "If they handed out medals for repression, the Chinese Communist Party would get a gold every time."

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