At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, 24 February, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called for Team GB to boycott next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, supporting calls from numerous Tibetans and other groups under Chinese Communist Party rule including Hongkongers, Southern Mongolians, Uyghurs and Chinese dissidents.
During his intervention, Davey highlighted the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, which has been recognised by Canada and the United States as a genocide.
“A genocide is happening in front of our eyes,” he said. “Millions of Uyghur people are living in fear under a cruel regime”. He said his party wanted to see ministers and athletes from Team GB and Paralympics GB boycott the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics if China failed to meet a series of stipulations.
Other MPs, including Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Bryant and Dominic Raab, have also questioned whether Beijing should be hosting the Winter Games next February. Dominic Raab, the Secretary of State said it was his “instinct to separate sport from diplomacy and politics” but that there “comes a point where that might not be possible”. According to Sir Ed Davey, if British athletes are sent to the games, they should “not be gagged from speaking out against the Chinese regime”, despite International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules preventing athletes from protesting at Olympic venues.
The last time Beijing hosted an Olympic event, the Summer Olympics in 2008, it encountered strong opposition from human rights experts, who said that it would not lead to an improvement in China’s human rights record, despite the IOC’s claims.
The 2008 Olympics were overshadowed by the Tibetan uprising in March that year, as well as a series of protests and demonstrations over the Chinese government’s treatment of a persecution of Tibetans. What started as a commemoration of the 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising quickly turned into protests across Tibet. Demonstrations supporting Tibetans were held in cities in North America, Europe, Australia, India, and Nepal, while the torch lighting ceremony in Greece was targeted by activists.
Given that the human rights situation in Tibet has markedly deteriorated since 2008, and the other abuses under CCP rule, Free Tibet and numerous other organisations have criticised the IOC’s decision to award the 2022 Winter Games to Beijing and are promoting calls for a diplomatic boycott.