Australian athletes warned to respect ‘the way China works’ amid Controversy around the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Beijing will become the first city to host the Summer and Winter Games in 2022, but next year’s event is clouded by the coronavirus pandemic and boycott calls on human rights issues.
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A number of human rights groups and some American lawmakers have called for a boycott or a change of host in Chinatreatment of Tibet, Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong.
At the torch-lighting ceremony in Athens earlier this month, rights activists protested, although the ceremony itself was not interrupted.
Although no country has said its athletes will boycott the Games, lawmakers in Europe, Britain and the United States have all voted for their diplomats to do so.
Beijing celebrated 100 days before the Winter Olympics kicks off Wednesday, with Australian Chef de Mission Geoff Lipshut speaking out on the controversy.
Lipshut said there would be no limitation on the freedom of expression of Australian athletes, but urged them to be respectful.
“The athletes absolutely have their own voice and they will be free to express their own opinions,” Lipshut told reporters on Wednesday.
“On difficult issues, on human rights issues, these are important questions and these are important questions.
“But our Olympic team is focused on performance, providing the best athletes we have to have the best opportunity in China.
“We also respect the fact that we’re in another country, and the way that country works, we have to respect it.
“What we are focused on is playing sports and athletes will have the best opportunity to play sports when it counts.”
Controversy around the Beijing Winter Olympics
A vocal core of international lawyers, politicians and activists have pressured Olympic sponsors, sports federations, governments and athletes to avoid what they call the “Genocide Games”.
These calls were largely met with silence, although Canada’s House of Commons voted 266-0 in a non-binding referendum that China commits genocide against more than a million Uyghurs and called on the IOC to move the Beijing Olympics.
The Dutch parliament passed a similar motion, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he believed genocide was being committed against the Uyghurs.
Earlier this year, the state tabloid World time said countries boycotting the 2022 Games can expect severe sanctions.
“Both the IOC and the athletes will oppose it, and China will seriously sanction any country that follows such a call,” Hu Xijin tweeted.
An editorial published in the World time also described the boycott calls as a “hostage” situation.
“China is a sporting and economic power with growing political influence,” the editorial read.
“If a country is encouraged by extremist forces to take concrete steps to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, China will definitely retaliate fiercely.
“China certainly has the resources and the means to do this.”
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