China and its tryst with Human Rights Violations

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China's warning to players speaking up on Human Rights issues is the most blatant form of Irony.

Our preparations for the upcoming Winter Olympics in China are in full swing, in spite of there being only a single participation by an Indian athlete who is shadowed by the Indian media while it continues to endlessly report about unnecessary political glory. They are blissfully unaware of a very different story or more precisely a scorching volcano brewing amongst the chilly winter days of Beijing.

When China was chosen to host the Winter Olympics in 2015 by The International Olympics Committee no one had any idea of what would transpire behind the glory of the Great Wall. The Pandemic, of course changed the course of the world and how other countries look at China, especially with the endless Human Rights violations that it continues to commit. The world's most populated country is a frequent front runner in newspaper headlines and fast bulletins but sadly not always for its booming economy, innovative technology and the magnificence of its rich culture and heritage. From its communist propaganda, air pollution, oppressed labour to political corruption, cyber security issues and mafia culture, the country has seen, endured and occasionally spoken up to it all. Its tryst with violation of Human Rights and criticism from different countries began soon after the Uyghur crisis.

Since 2014 the Chinese government under the administration of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping, has pursued policies that incarcerated more than an estimated one million Muslims (the majority of them Uyghurs) in internment camps without any legal process1. Several human rights activists and groups believe that the country is responsible for putting more than One Million Uyghur Muslims into what they term as ‘re–education camps’2. While the Chinese government has denied any and all claims pertaining to the genocide, images obtained and experiences of the escapees tell a very different story.

Fast forward to 2022, as the world slowly returns to normal with a lurking threat of another major wave of COVID 19, the Winter Olympics return in all its glory. The happiness and excitement would be short lived and would be replaced with bone chilling threats that might actually come true. A Reuters report suggested, during a seminar hosted by Human Rights Watch, athletes were warned about speaking up about human rights issues while in China. Robert Kohler, the director general of Global Athletes Group, was advising athletes to not speak up. Yaqiu Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, at the seminar said that, people could be charged with picking quarrels or provoking trouble. There are all kinds of crimes that can be levelled at peaceful, critical comments. Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas"3. There were also concerns about data spying and privacy on an app built to record health statistics of the attendees. Some delegates even went as far as to advise the players to carry burner phones and leave their smartphones behind-which is very difficult considering our obsession with these devices. Yang Shu the deputy director general of Beijing 2022's International Relations Department during a virtual briefing said, "Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected and anything and any behaviour or speeches that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment."

While several countries like the United States, Canada, Britain, Japan and Australia have banned various games and apps made and produced in the country over security and privacy issues, China is every bit unfazed. The eternal Olympic flame which was once a symbol of peace and friendship is now turning our freedom of expression into ashes. As Human Rights groups and activists continue to speak up and fight for the right of political and religious freedoms, China continues to bask in the glory, masking a horrifying face of sterilised women, tortured men and starving children of Muslim minority groups. The question that arises after all this is, when will the country wake up from its sleepless dream?

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