Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) selected Beijing as the host city for the 2022 Winter Games, creating an opportunity for China to present to the world a picture of the diversity of thought, opinion and people within the country.

Unfortunately, if the past predicts the future, China will not take this opportunity to advance human rights for citizens, Olympians and visitors prior to the Games.

Beijing will be the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Olympics, a tremendous honor for any nation. However, as China prepares to host the world’s most prestigious sporting event, it will likely face considerable criticism for its poor record on human rights and as a country where political dissent is ruthlessly suppressed.

Though the human rights situation is dire in China, the spotlight of the Olympics provides China the chance to improve upon its record of repression and showcase and celebrate all positive facets of the country. Regrettably, when China hosted the Olympic Games in 2008, this wasn’t the case. The crackdown on dissent only intensified and lives were lost.

Earlier this month, HRC launched its Global Spotlight Series, highlighting the situation for LGBT people in China as they demand wider acceptance and equality. LGBT Chinese people and their allies have worked for years to overcome stigma, gain greater legitimacy and visibility and spread awareness about the rights they have been denied for too long. Chinese LGBT people lack legal protections from discrimination at work and in housing and does not recognize same-sex marriage. Additionally, LGBT individuals are barred from adopting children, same-sex rape is not a criminal offense and stigma and discrimination against LGBT people are rampant.

After the human rights failures that marked the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, HRC joined more than 30 other human rights organizations urging the IOC to modify the selection standards for future host countries by selecting only those without discriminatory laws. Last November, IOC President Thomas Bach released a “Strategic Roadmap” and  urged the IOC “to include non-discrimination on sexual orientation in the Sixth Fundamental Principle of Olympism.” However, this recommendation does not go far enough as the IOC’s policy for transgender athletes still lags. 

The IOC must be willing to hold China to the highest of Olympic standards. The Chinese government must understand that the world will not give it a pass if it cracks down on dissent ahead of the games in the same way the Russia did ahead of Sochi.

"This is an opportunity for China to open up its record to scrutiny, ease measures that outlaw political opposition and allow civil society, including the LGBT community, to freely organize and express itself," said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global. "These measures will help build an atmosphere in which the human rights of all Chinese people, and Olympians, are respected and uplifted."

Filed under: International

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