MPs today voted to pass a motion calling on the UK government to boycott next year’s Beijing Winter Games in a huge step for the global No Beijing 2022 campaign.
The motion, tabled by Tim Loughton MP, stated that the Winter Games will be “hosted in a country whose Government is credibly accused of mass atrocity crimes” and that the UK should therefore decline all invitations to attend.
After a debate this afternoon with contributions from numerous MPs, parliament voted in favour of the motion, raising pressure on the Prime Minister and government to comply with calls for a boycott.
In his opening remarks, Loughton set out his reasoning for the motion. He raised his work to challenge the Chinese government’s human rights abuses and the sanctions imposed on him and colleagues earlier this year, before asking:
“How on earth does a genocidal, industrial-scale human rights-abusing, free speech intolerant and planet vandalising regime square with [Olympic] ideals?”
The motion focussed on the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur people, which include mass incarceration, torture, forced sterilisation and cultural destruction, and are increasingly being recognised as genocide, including by the UK parliament in April this year. Other communities including Hongkongers, Southern Mongolians and Tibetans have thrown their weight behind the motion, in solidarity and due to the effects of CCP rule on their own peoples and communities.
Tibet was repeatedly mentioned, both due to the ongoing human rights abuses under the occupation, but also due to Tibet’s tragic connection to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics a point elaborated by Navendu Mishra MP:
“At the last Olympics held in China in 2008, thousands of Tibetans took to the streets to protest and were brutally suppressed, with hundreds killed. The full number of deaths remains unknown.”
Mishra gave an update on the range of human rights abuses that Tibetans face under occupation today, finding time to mention Free Tibet:
“I would take this opportunity to pay tribute to the organisation Free Tibet. The work they do in raising awareness about the oppression of the Tibetan people, culture and language should be placed on record.”
Although the motion is non-binding, the victory makes it difficult for the government to ignore. Last week, Loughton, who is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, directly asked the Prime Minister whether he would back the motion given the repression against Tibetans and Uyghurs. Boris Johnson responded that although he was “instinctively, and always [had] been, against sporting boycotts”, we would “consider the proposal debated”.
Some in the debate also went further. Wera Hobhouse and Christine Jardine, both from the Liberal Democrats, gave their support for the motion while also throwing their weight behind a full boycott, a move that Free Tibet and allies including Tibetan Community in Britain, Students for a Free Tibet and the World Uyghur Congress are calling for.
The successful motion builds on a vote by the European Union last week in favour of a diplomatic boycott and a surge in activity around the world on 23 June, when campaign groups including Free Tibet carried out a Global Day of Action.
Free Tibet has worked alongside Hong Kong, Southern Mongolia, Tibetan and Uyghur communities and campaigners to urge MPs to attend the debate and vote in favour. An action shared by Free Tibet earlier this week encouraging supporters to email their MPs was taken by nearly 1,000 people in three days. Free Tibet and the Tibetan Community in Britain were outside parliament today to bring the “Boycott Beijing 2022” message directly to MPs and the public.