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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Olympic sponsors put pressure on China’s “horrific human rights record”

The main sponsors of the Beijing Winter Olympics, including Visa, Coca-Cola, Airbnb, and Omega, are all facing pressure from human rights activists to use their influence to resolve human rights violations in China.

Human Rights Watch, a campaign organization based in the United States, said that letters sent to each of the top corporate sponsors in May questioned their participation in the Beijing Olympics, but did not receive a response from these companies.

“It’s only three months before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, but corporate sponsors are silent on how they use their influence to solve China’s appalling human rights record,” Sophie Richardson, Director of China Program at Human Rights Watch Say.

“[The sponsors] Opportunities are being wasted to demonstrate their commitment to human rights standards and take risks instead of being linked to the Olympic Games that are polluted by censorship and suppression,” she said.

The group has targeted some of the most high-profile consumer brands in the world, marking the latest signs of the international turmoil surrounding the Olympics.

These sports raise embarrassing ethical issues for the government, companies, and athletes’ engagement with China.

Human rights organizations and some Western politicians are using China’s role as the host of international sports events to emphasize human rights violations and suppression of human rights, including Beijing’s security repression in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

There is controversy over whether a widespread boycott of the Olympics will effectively force China to change its treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.

Nonetheless, some Western parliamentarians—including those from the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union—have been calling on politicians and dignitaries to boycott the 2022 Olympics for months. Others called for a total boycott of athletes or the relocation of the Olympic Games.

In April of this year, Ned Price, a spokesperson for the US State Department, said that boycotts were an option “on the agenda.” President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to hold a virtual summit next week.

Human Rights Watch published letters to these companies on Friday. The organization urged corporate sponsors to pressure Beijing to allow international investigations into Xinjiang and demand the release of detained human rights defenders.

China has ruled that no foreign spectators can enter the country to participate in the Olympic Games as part of its strict border control and regional blockade to eradicate Covid-19.

Human Rights Watch also pointed out that if visiting athletes and Chinese spectators protest the Olympic Games by criticizing the government and the Chinese Communist Party, they may face the risk of “censorship or retaliation.”

The international boycott coincided with the growing public activism of a new generation of well-known athletes.

Since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt to protest police violence during the prelude of each game, the trend has accelerated and spread internationally for four years.

Recently, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has received widespread praise for advocating awareness of racial injustice and mental health.

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