China is using the upcoming Winter Olympics to “wipe” its “terrible” human rights record, warned the director of the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), urging countries to join a diplomatic boycott.
“The Chinese government is clearly trying to use the Beijing Olympics to cover up its appalling crackdown,” Kenneth Roth told AFP in an interview ahead of the publication of HRW’s annual report on Thursday.
The United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada announced that they will not be sending their political representatives until the opening of the Winter Games in Beijing on February 4, which accused China of human rights violations, including against the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region (northwest).
The HRW director insisted that other countries should also refrain from sending high-ranking officials to the Olympics, to help “uncover mass atrocities” in the region, as well as the “destruction of basic freedoms in Hong Kong” by China.
He also recalled that HRW did not ask athletes to boycott the Olympics, but insisted that the government could not limit itself to “pretending that everything was normal.”
“At a minimum, the international community should join the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics,” he added.
Asked Thursday about this statement, China’s Foreign Ministry accused the NGO of “as usual full of prejudice” and “faking lies” to sow discord.
“Unpleasant words and actions (HRW) that seek to harm the goals of the Olympics will not achieve their goals,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
Roth insisted that Olympic sponsors had to take a stand. “Instead of promoting” efforts to cover up these abuses, companies should “focus on what is happening in Xinjiang,” he said.
Activists claim that at least one million Uyghurs and other minorities, mostly Muslims, have been imprisoned in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. Beijing alleges that they are vocational training centers aimed at curbing Islamic extremism.
“All companies should do what they can to avoid supporting or legitimizing the Chinese government’s crackdown.” Roth said, calling the automaker Tesla’s recent decision to open dealerships in the region showing a “lack of sensitivity.”
The HRW director said, however, that many countries seemed more determined to criticize China at the United Nations in New York and Geneva.
But he regretted the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who was planning to attend the opening of the Asian Games, “hHe is completely silent and refuses to speak critically about the Chinese government.”
“This is a huge global failure,” he said.
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