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China’s Human Rights Record Made Winter Olympics ‘Irresponsible’, Swedish Athlete Says | Winter Olympics Beijing 2022

By on February 18, 2022 0

A Swedish gold medalist has said it was “extremely irresponsible” to hold the Winter Olympics in China because of the government’s human rights record.

Nils van der Poel, a 25-year-old speed skater, made the comments after returning from the event in Beijing, where officials struggled to maintain policy and protest despite diplomatic boycotts.

Van der Poel told Sportbladet he had “a very nice experience behind the scenes”, but the decision to award the Games to Beijing was “terrible”.

“The Olympic Village was very nice, the Chinese people I met were absolutely amazing,” he said. “The Olympics is a lot, it’s a fantastic sporting event where you unite the world and nations meet. But Hitler also before invading Poland, and Russia also before invading Ukraine.

“I think it’s extremely irresponsible to give it to a country that violates human rights as blatantly as the Chinese regime does.”

Governments, including the United States, have accused the Chinese government of carrying out genocide in Xinjiang, through its long campaign of forced assimilation against ethnic minorities, including Muslim Uyghurs. An estimated one million people were held in mass detention and re-education centers, and the general population was subjected to acts of religious and cultural repression, alleged forced labor and forced birth control .

Several human and legal rights groups have declared the actions to be crimes against humanity. Beijing denies all accusations of human rights abuses and says its policies are part of counterterrorism efforts and poverty reduction programs.

Rights groups had called for a widespread boycott of the Winter Olympics by governments and sponsors. Several countries, including the US, UK and Australia, staged a diplomatic boycott of the event, while the focus was on athletes‘ ability to protest.

Human rights advocates had warned athletes not to engage in activism, including making statements, while in Beijing for the Games. American Nordic skier and former Olympian Noah Hoffman said the athletes had a strong platform, but advised them to keep quiet in Beijing. He said: “They will be able to express themselves when they return.”

Acts of protest at the Games are generally against rules set by the International Olympic Committee, which has also warned athletes not to protest at the Tokyo Summer Games or face potential sanctions.

However, the growing intolerance of protest, dissent or criticism in or against China is causing growing concern. Ahead of the start, a Beijing official warned that any behavior by an athlete contrary to the Olympic spirit or to Chinese rules or laws would be subject to “certain penalties”.

The Chinese government and Olympic officials have insisted the Games should be free of politics, but when asked at a press conference on Tuesday about human rights issues, committee spokesman Yan Jiarong said called human rights abuses among the Uyghur Muslim population “lies” and insisted that Taiwan was part of China.

This article was last modified on February 18, 2022. Nils van der Poel is Swedish and not Swiss as an earlier version stated.