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NEW YORK (January 4, 2022) — With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics one month away, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) and the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice (Lantos Foundation) call on democratic governments to commit to a diplomatic boycott of the Games, and refuse to send official representation. By leaving their box seats empty, particularly at the marquee event of the Opening Ceremonies, democratic nations can send a powerful message in support of fundamental human rights.

Authoritarian regimes have historically weaponized global sporting events, such as the Olympics, to whitewash their human rights abuses. The glitz and glamor of such events has drowned out the suffering of millions of people living under dictatorships, and allows these authoritarian regimes — among them, China’s regime — to grandstand on the world stage alongside leaders from democratic countries. With Xi Jinping at its helm, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has belligerently attacked fundamental human rights in Tibet, the Uyghur Region (Xinjiang), and Hong Kong, and has unleashed its economic might to silence critics globally.

As a response to the CCP’s abuses, in December 2021, the Biden Administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympics in China, which are scheduled to take place from February 4-20. Among the human rights violations specified by the Biden administration, were China’s mass detention camps in the Uyghur Region (Xinjiang) and its campaign of forced sterilization against the Uyghurs. Several other countries, including Canada, Australia, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom have also announced diplomatic boycotts, similarly citing China’s appalling human rights record and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The Olympics, which aim to unify nations and promote shared values like respect for human dignity, must not be weaponized as a stage for China’s authoritarian government to whitewash its abuses. The very least that governments can do, is to show their solidarity with the people of Tibet, the Uyghur Region, and Hong Kong by leaving their seats empty at the Olympic Games,” said HRF President Céline Assaf-Boustani. “We applaud the governments that have already committed to diplomatic boycotts, and we encourage all other countries that value human rights, justice, and the rule of law to follow suit. It is imperative for the global community to stand together to send a powerful message to the CCP that its human rights abuses will not be tolerated.” 

With its appalling human rights record, Beijing should never have been given the opportunity to become the first city in history to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. However, despite international public outcry against the host country’s abuses and the diplomatic boycott commitments already made by democratic governments, the 2022 Olympics appear poised to go ahead as planned. 

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has demonstrated its utter disregard for human rights by awarding Beijing the Olympics, even though its human rights violations have only grown in severity since Beijing last hosted the Summer Games in 2008,” said President of the Lantos Foundation Katrina Lantos Swett. “The IOC may be willing to overlook the CCP’s misdeeds, but the international community cannot, and must not. Countries around the world can make known their support for the human rights and dignity of all people by refusing to dignify the 2022 Winter Olympics, which some have dubbed the ‘Genocide Games,’ with official representation.”

As HRF and the Lantos Foundation join forces in their condemnation of China’s human rights violations and calls for diplomatic boycotts of the Olympics, it is more important than ever that the international community boldly take a stand against the CCP over its shameless disregard for human rights and the rule of law. 

More information about HRF and the Lantos Foundation’s “Empty Box” Campaign, urging governments to leave their Olympic box seats empty in peaceful protest, is available here

To learn more about how the Olympics can legitimize the rule of authoritarian regimes, read HRF CEO Thor Halvorssen and Lantos Foundation President Katrina Lantos Swett’s op-ed, Don’t Let Dictators Grandstand with World Leaders in Tokyo. Reclaim Olympics Values.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. For interview requests of further comment, please e-mail [email protected].

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice was established to carry forward the legacy of Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to the U.S. Congress and a leading human rights champion. The Foundation works with a range of partners on issues that span the globe, with a focus on rule of law and religious freedom. For media requests, please e-mail Chelsea Hedquist at [email protected].