HRW urges countries to join Beijing Games diplomatic boycott

HRW urges countries to join Beijing Games diplomatic boycott

AFP

BEIJING: Beijing is using its upcoming Winter Olympics to “sports wash” and gloss over its “horrible” human rights record, the head of Human Rights Watch warned, urging countries to join a diplomatic boycott.
The United States, Britain, Australia and Canada have announced diplomatic boycotts of the Games, set to begin on February 4, over what they consider to be widespread rights abuses by China, including against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region.
HRW executive director Kenneth Roth insisted that other countries should also refrain from sending senior officials to the Olympics to help “spotlight the mass atrocities” in the region, as well as China’s “crushing of basic freedoms in Hong Kong”. “The Chinese government is clearly trying to use the Beijing Olympics to whitewash or to sports wash its horrible repression,” he told AFP in an interview ahead of Thursday’s publication of HRW’s annual report.
He said the organisation was not calling for athletes to boycott the Games, but insisted nations could do more.”At a minimum, the international community should join the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.” China’s foreign ministry countered Thursday that HRW “has always been full of prejudice”. “Its vile words and actions to damage the Olympic cause will never prevail,” said spokesman Wang Wenbin.
Roth also insisted that Olympic sponsors should take a stand. “Rather than in a sense announcing this whitewashing, (they) should be spotlighting whats going on in Xinjiang,” he said. Campaigners say at least one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in “re-education camps” in the far western region.
After originally denying their existence, Beijing later defended them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism. Beyond diplomacy, Roth said companies also had a moral obligation to resist the abuses taking place in Xinjiang. “Every company should be doing what it can to avoid endorsing or legitimising the Chinese governments repression,” he said, slamming carmaker Teslas recent decision to open a dealership in the province as “utterly tone deaf”.
He emphasised that “every company should ensure that their supply chains are not complicit in the forced labour that has become so prevalent in Xinjiang.” Roth hailed Washington’s decision to ban the import of goods from the province unless it can be demonstrated that no forced labour was used in the production, and urged other countries to do the same.
The HRW chief voiced hope that the office of UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet would soon publish a long-delayed report on rights abuses in Xinjiang, potentially inspiring a broader coalition of countries to speak out.