Beijing Games backers asked to speak up

·3-min read

Leading sponsors of the Beijing Winter Olympics should explain why they remain largely silent about alleged human rights abuses in China with the Games opening there in just under three months, Human Rights Watch says.

The rights group said in an on-line briefing on Friday that it had reached out to all but one of the IOC's so-called TOP sponsors - and leading broadcast rights holder NBC - in lengthy letters almost six months ago.

The only reply came from sponsor Allianz, which it wrote only last month.

"We stand behind the Olympic Movement and our longstanding support for its ideals will not waver," Allianz said.

The Beijing Games open February 4.

The letters asked sponsors to be aware of the rights climate in China, and to scrutinise supply chains and other operations to assure they do not "contribute to human rights violations."

"There are just three months until the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, but corporate sponsors remain silent over how they are using their influence to address China's appalling human rights record," Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The statement said sponsors risk "being associated with an Olympics tainted by censorship and repression."

The TOP sponsors, at the time of the letter, included: Airbnb, Alibaba, Allianz, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Dow, General Electric, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, and Visa.

Two sponsors - Dow and General Electric - have completed contracts with the IOC that ended with the recent Tokyo Olympics.

In total, TOP sponsors paid about $US1 billion in cash and in-kind payments to the IOC in the 2013-2016 Olympic cycle, a figure that was expected to double when complete figures are released for the 2017-2020 cycle. This cycle has been delayed by the one-year postponement of Tokyo due to the pandemic.

The American network NBC accounted for about 40 per cent of IOC income in the 2013-2016 cycle.

"The time for quiet diplomacy is over," said Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch during the briefing.

"It's time for the TOP sponsors to urge the International Olympic Committee to adopt human rights. It's time for them to disclose their own supply chains in China, particularly any products that have the five rings of the Olympics."

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denounced the sponsor accountability calls from Human Rights Watch.

"To politicise sports by fabricating lies and rumors and undermining the Olympic cause is unpopular and will never succeed," Wang told media at a daily briefing.

The statement from the rights group comes just three days after a global trade union group issued a scathing report that questioned the propriety of China holding the Games in the face of alleged genocide and crimes against humanity reportedly taking place in the Xinjiang in northwestern China.

China has repeatedly denied that a genocide is taking place, terming it the "lie of the century." It has said camps in northwestern China are for education, not arbitrary internment of a reported 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities.

For its part, the IOC says its only focus is sports and has no remit to act on the polices of a sovereign state.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting