The groups said they have informed the IOC about China’s abysmal human rights record for the past two decades, advised it against awarding China the Olympic Games, and warned it not to trust any promises that China would allow greater freedoms. Yet the IOC has now twice given Beijing the honor of hosting the world’s largest sporting competition.
“The IOC refused to listen in 2008, defending its decision with claims that they would prove to be a catalyst for improved human rights,” the letter read. “This decision proved to be hugely misplaced; not only did China’s human rights record not improve but violations increased substantially without rebuke.” The letter pointed to the concentration camps in Xinjiang, the surveillance state in Tibet, and the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
An editorial in the Chinese state-owned Global Times said China would retaliate fiercely against any country that decides to boycott the games. It called the boycott efforts an “evil trend” encouraged by “extreme forces.”
Join the Clubhouse
The Chinese government may deny human rights abuses in Xinjiang, but some Chinese are beginning to question the official narrative. A new invite-only audio-chat app, Clubhouse, is helping.
After the BBC last month reported on systematic rape in China’s reeducation camps, several Clubhouse users created a Mandarin-language chat room in the app to discuss the camps. Thousands of people—some from inside mainland China—listened in as members of the Uyghur diaspora started sharing their experiences.
Halmurat Harri Uyghur, a Uyghur doctor and activist in Finland, described how authorities sent his parents to the camps. Many Han Chinese listeners on the app were deeply moved, some crying and apologizing for what was happening to Uyghurs. (The doctor said this contrasted with what he experienced on Twitter, where Chinese trolls would attack him for his posts.)
One Han Chinese man in the chat room initially wanted to defend China’s policy, but after hearing the stories of others, he changed his mind, according to Voice of America. He apologized and asked how he could help Uyghurs.
In other Clubhouse rooms, mainland Chinese had civil conversations with Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, and the Chinese diaspora about taboo topics in China—the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Taiwan’s status, and the crackdown on Hong Kong.
The Chinese government subsequently blocked internet access to Clubhouse in China, yet some are still able to join using VPNs.
Halmurat Harri Uyghur said being on Clubhouse felt like talking to someone on the phone—even if they disagreed on something, they could talk it through. “It gave me encouragement,” he said. “It proved what I’ve been trying to tell others: We all are human beings despite our different ethnicities and faiths.”