Olympic Athletes Warned Against Mentioning China’s Human Rights Violations
Workers eat at the Wukesong Sports Centre, venue for the ice hockey competition during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in Beijing on January 18, 2022.
NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

Athletes traveling to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics were warned against speaking out about China’s human rights violations.

Reuters reported that the warning came for the athletes’ “own safety by speakers at a seminar hosted by Human Rights Watch.”

“There’s really not much protection that we believe is going to be afforded to athletes,” Rob Koehler, the director general of the Global Athlete group, said during the seminar, according to Reuters. “So we’re advising athletes not to speak up. We want them to compete and use their voice when they get home.”

The outlet noted that Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter says that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

The rule is selectively enforced, as evidenced by who was allowed to protest during the Summer Olympics in 2021.

The Washington Post reported that a member of China’s Olympics organizing committee has also warned athletes that they could be punished for saying things that violate Chinese law.

“Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected,” Yang Shu, deputy director general of international relations for the Beijing Organizing Committee, said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”

China’s rule appears to go further than the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Rule 50 by including “speech” rather than just demonstrations, and it is unclear how the rule will be enforced.

“In China, critics of the government have routinely been sentenced to prison for staging political protests, or for comments they made on social media. While it’s unlikely Beijing would risk international ire to severely punish an athlete at the Olympics for speech, Yang declined to answer on Tuesday what the maximum punishment could be for political demonstration at the Games,” The Post reported.

China’s repression of athletes who speak out against the regime came to a head late last year when Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai made sexual assault allegations against a Chinese official and then disappeared for weeks, later emerging and claiming everything was fine and denying ever making the allegations, The Daily Wire reported.

“I want to emphasize one thing that is very important,” Peng said in December. “I have never spoken or written about anyone sexually assaulted me. This point is very important to be emphasized clearly.”

“First of all, it’s my personal privacy,” she continued. “There possibly has been a lot of misunderstanding. Therefore, there should not be such distorted interpretation here.”

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which suspended its tournaments in China over concerns about Peng’s safety, was not satisfied with her comments.

“We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern,” the WTA said in a statement in December.

“It was again good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we certainly hope she is doing well,” the WTA said. “As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.”


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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Olympic Athletes Warned Against Mentioning China’s Human Rights Violations