China Warns Olympians ‘Behavior or Speech’ Against Country ‘Subject to Certain Punishment’

“Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations are also subject to certain punishment.”

QUICK FACTS:
  • As Team USA arrives in China to compete in the Winter Olympic Games, athletes have been advised to use burner phones instead of their personal devices over concerns of possible surveillance, according to Forbes.
  • Activists have also urged U.S. competitors to avoid being critical of China because they could risk being prosecuted.
  • Forbes notes how political protests—or any criticism of the Chinese government—are extremely rare in China, Human Rights Watch advising athletes to avoid speaking out against China because the ambiguity of Chinese laws on crimes could be used to “prosecute people’s free speech.”
  • Chinese law comes into the picture not only because the Games are happening on Chinese soil but rule 50.2 of the Olympic charter prohibits “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” at Olympic sites, and requires athletes to comply with “applicable public law or regulation,” according to Forbes.
WHAT THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE BEIJING WINTER GAMES’ INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT SAID:
  • Yang Shu, deputy director general of the Beijing Winter Games’ international relations department, said at a news conference last month that expression within the realm of the “Olympic spirit” will be protected, but warned, “Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations are also subject to certain punishment,” reports Forbes.
  • Yang has also said “dedicated departments” will investigate comments made by athletes during the Games, The Guardian reported.
BACKGROUND:
  • Some activists have encouraged Olympians to use their platform to speak out against China’s mistreatment of ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs, who are allegedly being genocided in China.
  • A London-based independent tribunal recently ruled that China committed genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in its western Xinjiang region, accusing China’s senior leadership including President Xi Jinping of “primary responsibility” for acts perpetrated against Muslim minority groups, CNN reports.
  • Last month, a French parliament resolution also accused China of carrying out a genocide against its Uyghur Muslim population. France’s National Assembly joined Canada, the Netherlands, Britain and Belgium in having parliaments where lawmakers have passed similar motions. The U.S. government has formally accused China of genocide in western Xinjiang, too, according to VOA.
  • Lhadon Tethong, the Tibet Action Institute director, recently called on athletes to speak up: “Your silence is their strength. That is what they want more than anything: that the world will play by China’s rules, that we will follow China’s lead, that we will look away from these atrocities and crimes for the sake of business as usual.”