Perseus: Open letter to the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations

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British Paralympic Association
101 Cavendish Street
10 December 2021

Dear Sirs,

I write to you on Human Rights Day this open letter with regard to the upcoming Winter Games to be held in Beijing (“Beijing 2022”). As you are aware, there have been a lot of concerns over the human rights record of the Chinese Communist Party (“CCP”), China’s ruling dictatorship. Some of the human rights abuses were examined by the Uyghur Tribunal recently, a non-binding people’s tribunal examining a large body of evidence of abuse against Uyghur Muslims by the CCP. The Tribunal yesterday, headed by Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC, considered that there was evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, that the CCP was committing crimes against humanity, and conducting a genocide, against Uyghur Muslims.

In addition to the many atrocities carried out against Uyghur Muslims by the CCP which were examined by the Uyghur Tribunal, the CCP has also carried out many acts of human rights abuse against those in Tibet, Hong Kong, Falun Gong practitioners, human rights defenders, journalists, and anyone who would dare to speak up against the regime.

In response to the extent of the CCP’s record of human rights abuse, the United Kingdom Government had put in place the BNO visa scheme to allow Hongkongers to leave Hong Kong in light of the severe crackdown on civil liberties, as well as announcing on Wednesday in Parliament a diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022. Other governments have also announced a diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022 in response to the CCP’s record of human rights abuse.

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Not only have diplomatic boycotts been announced, but the WTA has imposed a sporting boycott of China and Hong Kong in light of the disappearance of Peng Shuai after she recounted being coerced into sex with Zhang Gaoli, former Vice Premier of China.

Although there will be those who claim that sporting events should not be mixed with politics, in reality such distinctions are difficult to make. There have been many examples of sportspersons taking a principled stand, for example the idea of taking a knee by sportspersons, or Mesut Ozil using his position to highlight the persecution of Uyghur Muslims at the hands of the CCP. It is also not without precedent that regimes intend to use sporting events as propaganda, for example the Olympic Games of 1936 held in Berlin, intended to be used by Adolf Hitler to showcase Nazism to the world. Indeed, Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary in 2018, had told MPs of the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia that he thought the comparison between Russia hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and the Olympic Games in 1936 was “certainly right”, and it was an “emetic prospect to think of Putin glorifying in this sporting event”. There is a real prospect that Beijing 2022 will simply be Xi glorifying, increasing his cult of personality, and the CCP’s confidence to continue its human rights abuse, and the thought that it can continue to do so with impunity.

Not only will the CCP’s confidence grow in relation to its programme of human rights abuse, but their continued efforts to disenfranchise the over 23 million people of Taiwan, as it seeks to bully countries around the world into shutting out Taiwan from diplomatic relations, or participation in international bodies like the World Health Organisation.

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Although I of course recognise that our athletes have trained very hard to compete at the highest level, and that the Olympics is an opportunity which comes around only once every four years under normal circumstances, it is hoped that the British Olympic and Paralympics Associations will consider taking a stand for principles and consider using your platform to take a stand against the CCP’s ongoing human rights abuse by speaking out more, or like the WTA in the wake of the Peng Shuai incident, consider a full boycott, or allowing individual athletes to take the decision to boycott without any reprisals from the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations, of Beijing 2022.

Yours faithfully,

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Perseus (a pen name) is a Hongkonger based in the UK. He is a freelance photojournalist and writer, as well as a human rights and public law lawyer practising in London.
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