By Denis Balibouse
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – A handful of Tibetan activists held a mock funeral for the International Olympic Committee outside its headquarters on Friday to protest the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in China.
Protesters held a fake black coffin bearing the Olympic rings and the dates 1894 – the year the IOC was founded – and 2021, and unfurled Tibetan flags and a banner that read “Boycott Beijing 2022”.
“IOC, you died for us today because of what you have done on several occasions,” said Chemi Lhamo, a Tibetan-Canadian activist who was arrested in October for disrupting the lighting ceremony of the Beijing 2022 torch in Olympia, Greece.
“The Tibetans are asking you to correct your actions and yet you have not changed, so from now on we do not want to do anything with you and now we are calling on international governments to call for a boycott.”
The IOC has long been criticized by human rights groups for awarding the Games to Beijing – the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games – because of the treatment inflicted by the China to Tibet, Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong.
The IOC has declared that it is a force for good and that it cannot have any influence over sovereign states.
US President Joe Biden said earlier this month his country was considering a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.
Chinese authorities have been accused of facilitating forced labor by detaining around one million Uyghurs and other mainly Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.
China denies any wrongdoing, saying it has set up vocational training centers to fight extremism.
On Tibet, which it has ruled since 1951 after its People’s Liberation Army entered and took control of what it calls “peaceful liberation,” China says its rule has brought much-needed development to a poor and backward region.
At Friday’s protest, pieces of paper with words such as “athletes”, “security”, “friendship” and “Peng Shuai’s security” – referring to the Chinese tennis player whose whereabouts have become a topic of concern. international concern for nearly three weeks – were placed inside the coffin.
Peng had posted a social media post alleging that a former senior Chinese government official sexually assaulted her before disappearing.
She reappeared over the weekend in Beijing and also had a video call with the IOC, but the Women’s Tennis Association said she still had concerns about her well-being.
(Reporting by Denis Balibouse; Writing by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Alex Richardson)