China: Winter Olympics must not overshadow the fight for human rights

published 3 February 2022 updated 22 February 2022

Ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics starting on 4 February in Beijing, China, Education International joins the international trade union movement’s call for human and trade union rights.

While millions gather to watch the Olympics, unionists and human rights activists call on the world not to forget the human rights violations of the country hosting the winter games.

China: A gold medal for repression

At global level, the ITUC research, “China : A gold medal for repression”, details how the actions of the Chinese Communist Party have made Beijing unsafe for athletes and others involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

It details five repressive policies of the ruling party that make China and the world less safe:

  1. Repression and imprisonment in Hong Kong;
  2. Intimidation of LGBT+ people;
  3. Violations of fundamental rights at work, in supply chains and in society;
  4. Repression and exploitation of ethnic minorities; and
  5. Silence and obstruction over the spread of COVID-19.

For ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, “the sports of the Olympics have rules, but the Chinese Communist Party has shown that it has little or no respect for international laws and standards and is becoming increasingly repressive”.

Speaking on the situation in Hong Kong, she was adamant that, “in full view of the world, they have crushed any person or group that attempts to exercise the most basic rights and freedoms. If they handed out medals for repression, the Chinese Communist Party would get a gold every time.”

The five Olympic rings tarnished by the policies of the Chinese Government

Ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the ITUC is therefore demanding that:

  • The IOC guarantees the security and safety of athletes and all others who are attending the Games;
  • Governments guarantee the safety of athletes and others from their countries traveling to the Games;
  • International Olympic sponsors review their association with the Beijing Winter Olympics in light of the repressive policies of China’s ruling party; and
  • The ruling party end its policies of repression and allow fundamental rights and freedoms under international rules.

In the United States, following on its 2021 Resolution “China: Standing Against the Repression of Muslims in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region”, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a member of Education International, will engage in 16 days of action focusing on China’s human and labour rights in China.

The AFT notes that “Chinese authorities are pledging unrestricted Internet access for foreign athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but rights advocates say athletes will likely be cautious about exploiting the rare crack in China's ‘Great Firewall’.”

U.S educators to continue their vigilance at the ILO

In her letter to the United States President Joe Biden AFT President Randi Weingarten welcomed his signing of the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” banning imports from Xinjiang province’s labor camps that are exploiting ethnic Muslim workers.

She goes on underlining that “the AFT stood with Secretary Blinken when he condemned China for the practice of genocide against the Uyghurs, and we joined with the AFL-CIO, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and a broad network of human rights organizations in calling attention to these horrific human rights and labor rights actions. As a leader in Public Services International, the AFT also called on the International Labor Organization to investigate and report on violations to ILO Conventions 111 and 122 as ratified by China.”

We will continue our vigilance at the ILO in pressuring authorities to confront and condemn human rights violations in China, she concludes.

Via Share My Lesson, a free, community-based site bringing together educators, parents and caregivers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel, specialised instructional support personnel, union and nonunion members, educational partners, and higher education professionals who have the common goal of finding and sharing the best educational resources available, AFT also provides valuable lesson plans to discuss democracy and its values in the classroom.

Education International is a member of the Council of Global Unions and supports human rights and democratic institutions around the world. EI’s Resolution on solidarity with Hong Kong, adopted during the 2019 World Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand, also reaffirms solidarity with democracy defenders in Hong Kong and in support of the values of equality, dignity, democracy, justice and liberties.