On Friday 26 November, Free Tibet joined Tibetan activists outside the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to hold a mock funeral for the organisation and the values upon which it is built.
In an act of condemnation for the IOC’s failure to uphold the Olympic values of ‘excellence, friendship, and respect’, which lie at the core of the Olympic Movement, the protesters carried a black coffin reading “1894-2021” adorned with broken Olympic rings. Placed into the coffin were notices displaying the Olympic values themselves, alongside others that referenced IOC commitments, promises, and quotes. Notable among these was one which read “Peng Shuai’s safety and security.”
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared earlier this month after she spoke publically of her sexual assault by China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. While she has not given any public statement or appeared publically in any capacity (outside of a tennis event in Beijing), IOC president Thomas Bach claims to have spoken to her in a private video call, where she is described as “safe and well.” The footage of this call has not been released publically, and the IOC has been condemned by human rights activists and sports organisations alike for inadequate protection of athletes, with Human Rights Watch accusing the IOC of complicity with China’s state propaganda apparatus.
Peng Shuai is one of many who have faced political reprisals for speaking publically on matters which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) find embarassing, or which are seen to cause trouble. The threat of being ‘disappeared’ for sharing opinions is one which Tibetans face every day, such as in 2016 when language advocate Tashi Wangchuk was abducted by state authorities for giving an interview to the New York Times.
Speaking outside the IOC offices, Tibetan-Canadian activist Chemi Lhamo condemned the organisation for its complicity in the CCP’s crimes against humanity. “The IOC has betrayed all of us,” she said, “The Tibetans, the Uyghurs, the Hong Kongers, the Southern Mongolians, even their own Chinese citizens and our athletes.”
Tibetan activist and filmmaker Golog Jigme gave his speeches in his Tibetan mother tongue, empowering a language that is increasingly being undermined by the Chinese state. Golog Jigme has previously played a pivotal role in informing the public of the oppression faced by Tibetans prior to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, with his documentary Leaving Fear Behind.
The action was covered by international news media, with activists giving interviews and hosting a press conference. It is hoped that this coverage will provide more visibility for the crimes of the CCP, and the oppression faced by those living under Chinese rule, while also putting increased pressure on governments and Olympic associations to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Earlier today, Free Tibet spoke to Tibetan-Canadian activist @chemilhamoooo who explained why she took action today at the @iocmedia headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. #NoBeijing2022 @TheTibetNetwork @vtje_tyae pic.twitter.com/PE2DKY0mCq
— Free Tibet (@freetibetorg) November 26, 2021