Senators call for Irish boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics due to China’s human rights abuses

A group of six independent Senators has said that the 2022 Winter Olympics should not take place in Beijing and that, if the International Olympic Committee doesn’t change the venue, the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) should boycott the event. 

Led by Independent NUI Senator Rónán Mullen, the Oireachtas group criticized the “deteriorating human rights situation in China, especially the mass incarceration and coercion of China’s Uighur minority” which the United States Congress and Canada’s House of Commons have characterised as “genocide”.

In a letter to the President of the Olympic Federation of Ireland, Ms Sarah Keane, the Senators said they were not making their proposal lightly. “We are conscious of the huge sacrifices that our athletes make, including the relatively small number who are planning to compete under our flag at the Winter Olympics. We hesitate to call for a full boycott of the 2022 Games, because of the potential impact on the individual sportspeople involved and on their careers. But the gravity of the conduct of the Chinese government means it is not tenable that no clear protest be made on behalf of Irish sport and the Irish people.”

“Failing a full boycott by Ireland we urge you to explore the possibility of Irish athletes participating in the Games but not under the Irish flag and with no official Irish delegation attending the events,” the Senators told the Olympic Federation.

“This would allow Ireland to register a protest about the conduct of the Beijing government,” they said. “It would deny the Chinese authorities both of access to Irish officials and of an opportunity to use the Games in furtherance of their diplomatic aims.”

The 2022 Winter Olympics were a key part of China’s aggressive diplomatic strategy, in which the Chinese authorities seek every opportunity to normalise their domestic policies, including widespread abuse of human freedoms and coercion of its people, the Senators said.

“The prestige associated with hosting the Winter Olympics contributes to a relativising of China’s human rights abuses and to a normalisation of its policies.”

“Democratic and open societies must avoid doing anything that would facilitate or collaborate with this agenda in any way,” the Senators told the OFI in their letter.

“We hope you will agree that it would be entirely wrong for Ireland or Irish athletes to partake in any event which might be used by the Chinese government for propaganda purposes or which might give comfort to the Chinese regime that its abuse of its own people carries no consequences internationally.”

Co signing the letter with Senator Mullen are fellow Independent Senators David Norris, Sharon Keogan, Victor Boyhan, Michael McDowell and Lynn Ruane.

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