Olympic duo China and Kazakhstan criticised over human rights

Protesters in Hong Kong hold up pictures of human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. Picture: AP
Protesters in Hong Kong hold up pictures of human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang. Picture: AP
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THE human rights records of China and Kazakhstan were criticised by human rights campaign groups yesterday, just a week before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decides on whether to award the 2022 Winter Games to Beijing or Almaty.

The Washington-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that the IOC, which will vote in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 31 July, should ensure that the host city “fully respect” human rights commitments.

“Whether China or Kazakhstan wins the honour … the IOC will face an extreme test of its new commitment to improve human rights protections,” Minky Worden, HRW director, said. “The International Olympic Committee should 
insist that the host country ­rigorously comply with the ­Olympic Charter and basic human rights rules – or risk losing the right to host the games.”

Four groups opposing a bid by Beijing, which aims to become the first city to host both a Summer and Winter Olympics, wrote an open letter to the IOC.

“As Tibetans, Uighurs, southern Mongolians and Han Chinese we join together to urge you … not to award another Olympic Games to China,” the letter said. “All of the people we represent have suffered as a result of the Chinese government’s contempt for human rights. We hope that you are aware by now that the 2008 Beijing Games did nothing to alleviate human rights abuses in China or enhance freedom.” 
Tibet says it is an independent nation, but the Chinese government insists it is part of China. Beijing staged a crackdown on Tibetan protests ahead of the 2008 Summer Games.

Uighurs are part of a Muslim minority in the far western region of Xinjiang. More than six million Mongolians live in China amid ethnic tensions.

Pro-Tibetan and other rights groups have argued that the Communist government’s restrictions on civil and political liberties make Beijing an unfit candidate to host the games.

Meanwhile, another statement from Human Rights Watch singled out the Almaty bid and criticised Kazakhstan’s hostility toward gay people. 
The group issued a 31-page report documenting violence and discrimination that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face in the Central Asian nation.

It said LGBT people in Kazakhstan live in a “climate of fear,” facing violence and discrimination. It called on the government to take immediate steps to improve the situation.

HRW in the past has also criticised Kazakhstan’s restrictions on media, assembly, and association freedoms, as well as the detention of government critics.

Last year, Russia was criticised over its law against gay “propaganda” ahead of its hosting of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.