January 25, 2022

New action: No to forced labor Olympics!

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We’re just weeks away from the Beijing Winter Olympics and there are a few things you need to know: 

  • There are no known plans by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to prevent human rights violations connected to the Games 
  • Olympics merchandise is potentially made with Uyghur forced labor 
  • The IOC returns months-long respectful request for dialogue with cold rejection 
We’ve launched a new action to tell the IOC that the Olympics must be free of forced labor. 
Act now
The IOC has turned a blind eye to the concerns of the Uyghur diaspora, advocates, human rights organizations and even the UN human rights chief – in the name of “neutrality”.   

By not commenting on political issues, you’re not taking a side. Neither the one, nor the other. This is the mission of the IOC. Otherwise, we could not manage to accomplish the mission of the Games, to bring and unite the world.” – Thomas Bach, IOC President  

Since they awarded Beijing with the 2022 Winter Games, highly publicized accounts of forced labor, torture, family separation, and other abuses in the Uyghur Region detention camps have continued to surface.   

Last year, an independent think tank[1] and tribunal[2] found that the actions of the Chinese state against the Uyghur population amounted to genocide. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, as well as 40 countries[3] in the U.N. Human Rights Council have publicly shared concerns about crimes against humanity in the Uyghur Region.   

Citing forced labor and other human rights violations in the Uyghur Region, the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia announced diplomatic boycotts of the Games[4] last month. Activists around the world have called for a full boycott.   

But does any of this matter to the IOC? They won’t speak about what is happening to the Uyghurs. But, more disturbingly, the IOC won’t share what measures they have put in place to ensure that Uyghur forced labor or other human rights violations are not a part of the Olympics apparatus.  
Sign the petition
Along with our partners at the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, we have tried to engage the IOC privately for eight months in 2021 to discuss potential forced labor and human rights risks, including that Olympic-branded merchandise might be made with forced Uyghur labor.   

Despite their own human rights obligations and responsible sourcing codes, the IOC rejected the Coalition’s proposal for a mutually respectful two-way dialogue.    

At the same time, they can’t produce credible evidence that there was no forced labor in the production of thousands of items of Olympic-branded merchandise sold or worn in connection with the Beijing Winter Games.  It gets worse. 

“We have always bought and used cotton produced in China, including Xinjiang cotton, and in the future we will continue to do so.” – Anta Sports, March 2021[5] 

Take a stand
While the complex Uyghur forced labor system now extends throughout China thanks to labor transfer schemes, the heart of the system begins and ends with the Uyghur Region farms, factories and detention camps. The bare minimum an entity can do to show it does not support forced labor is to exit the Uyghur Region.   

This is why it is alarming that the IOC’s official sportswear uniform is Anta Sports – a company which proudly sources cotton from the Uyghur Region. Last year, the company left the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) after BCI announced it was exiting the Region

The IOC cannot continue to cling to empty promises of uniting the world or providing “hope for a better, a more peaceful future”[6]while ignoring the suffering of millions and the liability of its own team

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Thanks to the Freedom United community, the movement to end Uyghur forced labor has never been stronger.   

We need to use our collective power to send a message to the IOC.  

 Ahead of the opening of the Beijing Games, we’re calling for a forced labor free Olympics!   

In solidarity,  

Krysta and the team that supports the Freedom United community

 P.S. If you’d like to support campaigns like this, please consider making a donation. Thank you! 
 Krysta Bisnauth
Advocacy, Freedom United
[1] https://www.freedomunited.org/news/independent-legal-review-finds-china-breach-genocide-convention/
[2] https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/09/china/uyghur-tribunal-judgment-intl/index.html
[3] https://www.freedomunited.org/news/un-human-rights-chief-wants-to-visit-uyghur-region-this-year/
[4] https://www.freedomunited.org/news/u-s-diplomatic-boycott-olympic-games/
[5] https://www.axios.com/olympic-uniform-supplier-anta-xinjiang-cotton-438a046b-ac3e-4a85-8379-2954ddfbe2d2.html
[6] https://olympics.com/ioc/news/the-unifying-power-of-the-olympic-games-to-bring-the-world-together-in-peaceful-competition
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