Published on: Amended:
Beijing (AFP) – From human rights to coronavirus and tennis star Peng Shuai, the February Olympics in Beijing have been overshadowed by several controversies.
Less than two months before the start of the Games, the United States reacted on Monday by announcing a diplomatic boycott.
AFP Sports takes a look at the issues hanging over the Olympics:
Former two-time world number one Peng has sparked serious concern internationally after she filed social media charges of sexual assault against a former senior Communist Party official.
The 35-year-old – a three-time Olympian – had no news for nearly three weeks and her claims were quickly censored. The United Nations, the United States and Peng’s other tennis stars have all expressed fears about his fate.
The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended tournaments in China.
Peng then appeared in state media in several videos and held a video call with IOC President Thomas Bach in which she said she was safe and healthy, but concerns remain.
Activists say at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkish-speaking minorities, mostly Muslim, have been held in camps in the Xinjiang region of northwest China.
Human rights groups and foreign governments have found evidence of what they say is mass detentions, forced labor, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilization. Washington called it genocide.
After initially denying the existence of the camps in Xinjiang, China later defended them as vocational training centers aimed at reducing the attractiveness of Islamic extremism.
China has also consistently denounced what it calls the “politicization of sport”.
Human rights activists and exiles have accused Beijing of religious repression and massive restriction of rights in Tibet.
Activists unfurled a Tibetan flag during the Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece.
Tibet has alternated over the centuries between independence and control from China, which says it “peacefully liberated” the rugged plateau in 1951 and brought infrastructure and education to the previously underdeveloped region.
But many Tibetans in exile accuse the Beijing government of religious repression, torture and erosion of their culture – part of broader human rights fears in China.
There has also been international concern about a crackdown in Hong Kong, which China is reshaping into its own authoritarian image after huge and often violent democracy protests in the city two years ago. .
The coronavirus dominated preparations for the Beijing Olympics, which take place just six months after the Tokyo Summer Games delayed by the pandemic.
China has succeeded in restricting national infections to small groups through aggressive lockdowns and mass testing, but Beijing organizers have admitted protecting the Games from the coronavirus is their “biggest challenge.”
The Winter Olympics will be a “closed loop” – a strict bubble isolating athletes from the outside world for the duration of the Games. Only people living in China will be allowed to attend as spectators.
The estimated 2,900 athletes are expected to be fully vaccinated or face 21 days of quarantine upon arrival. They, along with the media and others in the bubble, will also be tested daily.
Entry into the Chinese capital has already been tightened.
© 2021 AFP