BERLIN (Reuters) - A group of rights activists have called on the International Olympic Committee not to award the 2022 winter Games to Beijing saying China’s human rights record had worsened since the 2008 Olympics in the Chinese capital.
Chinese, Uighur, Mongolian and Tibetan activists said in an open letter to the IOC it should not “make the same mistake” by awarding the Olympics to Beijing as there was no improvement of human rights in the country since.
The Chinese capital and Kazakhstan’s Almaty are the only bidders for the winter Olympics in seven years time, with the IOC electing the winner at its session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, next week.
Should Beijing win it would be the first city to have been awarded both summer and winter Olympics.
“We hope that you are aware by now that the 2008 Beijing Games did nothing to alleviate human rights abuses in China or enhance freedom,” they said in the letter.
“In fact the situation now in 2015 is far worse than when those Games were awarded in 2001.”
It was signed by the president of the World Uighur Congress, the director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, the president of Initiatives for China and a Tibetan rights activist.
Tibetan parts of China experienced a wave of violent anti-Chinese protests in 2008. Rights groups said the Games were marked by forced evictions - claims angrily dismissed at the time by the government - and other abuses.
The IOC has said it is not a political organization that can interfere in domestic matters of a sovereign state but has insisted the Games are a force for good.
“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 group said in their letter.
“The IOC must recognize 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.”
Beijing denies accusations by human rights groups that it restricts religious freedoms including that of Uighurs.
It blames Islamist militants for a rise in violent attacks in Xinjiang in the past three years in which hundreds have died.
In June several Tibetans disrupted Beijing’s 2022 Games bid presentation to the IOC by staging a protest inside and outside the hotel where the meeting was taking place.
China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since troops “peacefully liberated” the region in 1950.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Amlan Chakraborty