From dramatically reduced viewership around the world, to the attention that has been drawn to the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses, Free Tibet wants to reflect on the No Beijing 2022 campaign and give our top 5 campaign wins.
1. DIPLOMATIC BOYCOTTS
When the Summer Olympics were hosted in Beijing in 2008 the call for a boycott was not heeded by most. In 2022, however, our voices were heard. Ten countries announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, including the UK, United States, Canada and Australia. The message in statements given by those boycotting was clear: with their ongoing genocide and human rights abuses, the CCP does not deserve to host the Olympics again.
In 2002, while making their bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Chinese government made a series of lavish promises that they would improve their human rights record. Long before the Olympics were over, these promises has been exposed as a sham.
Things were different in the run-up to Beijing 2022: thanks to over a year of sustained campaigning from the Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Konger and Chinese communities, several governments committed to do the right thing and stand up to the CCP.
2. DISMAL VIEWERSHIP
As the Olympics drew closer, and it was becoming clear that the CCP would power through with their “Genocide Games” despite the international backlash, groups around the world joined together to launch the #IWillNotWatch campaign. Thousands of people signed pledges to switch off from the Winter Olympics and steal away the propaganda win that the CCP so desperately wanted.
A poll commissioned by Free Tibet found that 58% of the UK planned to watch less Winter Olympics TV coverage than normal, with 20% saying they would not be watching it at all. And so it proved, with viewing figures for the Olympics opening ceremony the lowest in modern history across both the UK and the US.
In the UK, just 1.3 million people tuned in to watch the event, a little over half of the previous Winter Olympics figures. Over in the US, the ceremony drew in 16 million viewers, which is the lowest turnout for a Winter Olympics opening ceremony this century.
The Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Konger and Chinese activists at the forefront of these issues have worked around the clock in the run-up to these Olympics, to ensure that the CCP’s human rights abuse and dystopian policies come back to bite them. Organising protests, holding online events, and pushing these issues to the front pages of our news media, we have been able to work together with communities to make sure the public know about what the CCP is doing, and how they can take action against it.
3. INTERRUPTING THE TORCH LIGHTING CEREMONY
Back in October 2021, the Olympic Torch was being lit in the traditional ceremony in Olympia, Greece. What organisers did not expect was the bravery and audacity of our activists. Free Tibet’s own Jason Leith joined with activists Chemi Lhamo and Fern MacDougal to interrupt the ceremony at the moment the flame was being lit. During the live camera feed from the event, their chants could be heard clearly, while photographers on the scene snapped images of their protest.
The action made headline news around the world and drew attention to the CCP’s human rights abuse against Tibetans, acting as a space and starting point for news media to highlight these crimes against humanity. This action brought real energy to the campaign, and the activists who put their personal safety on the line should be applauded for their valiant efforts!
4. REVEALING THE FEAR AND PARANOIA OF THE BEIJING OLYMPICS
In February, the IOC released a video in a weak attempt to show solidarity with athletes and spread a message of unity. We took that video and edited it to show the IOC what solidarity really looks like, and highlight how the Beijing Olympics are really just a propaganda tool to a genocidal regime that actively undermines the concept of solidarity.
This video was subsequently removed from Facebook and Instagram at the request of the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee. This move was intended to silence us and bury our critique so that nobody could see it. However, in reality, it only served to expose the fear and paranoia behind the Olympics’ organisers. The video was removed because they were scared of what we had to say and the truths it would reveal, and what was once just a commentary video instead became the video that Beijing doesn’t want you to see.
5. PUSHING TIBET TO THE FOREFRONT OF GLOBAL NEWS MEDIA
Working together with other groups seeking to challenge the CCP’s human rights abuse and genocide, we have been able to turn news from Tibet, East Turkestan, Hong Kong, and mainland China into headlines around the world. With every protest, every action, and every new supporter, we have been able to push more and more organisations to question the CCP’s efforts to sportswash its crimes against humanity and subsequently undermine them.
China has been unable to shy away from its abuse of Tibetan people, and occupation of Tibetan lands, being confronted with questions at every turn. Just this week these uncomfortable questions for the CCP have resulted in Beijing 2022 spokesperson Yan Jiarong seemingly breaking IOC rules on political neutrality by stating that the existence of concentration camps in the Uyghur region were “lies” and insisting that Taiwan is a part of China.
By pushing for more coverage of these issues we have been able to prove that the IOC’s commitment to ‘political neutrality is a myth, created for convenience in order to ignore human rights abuse. More people are beginning to understand the situation faced by Tibetans, and want to take action.