Beijing Winter Olympics sponsors pressured over China’s ‘appalling human rights record’

'The big sponsors of the Beijing Winter Olympics, including Visa, Coca-Cola, Airbnb and Omega, are under pressure from human rights campaigners to use their leverage to address human rights abuses in China.

Human Rights Watch, a US-headquartered campaign group, said letters sent to each of the top corporate sponsors in May questioning their involvement in the Beijing Games drew no responses from the companies. “There are just three months until the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, but corporate sponsors remain silent over how they are using their influence to address China’s appalling human rights record,” said Sophie Richardson, director of the China programme at Human Rights Watch. “[The sponsors] are squandering the opportunity to show their commitment to human rights standards and risk instead being associated with an Olympics tainted by censorship and repression,” she said. The group’s targeting of some of the world’s highest profile consumer brands marks the latest sign of the international furore surrounding the Games. The campaigns pose awkward ethical questions to governments, companies and athletes over their engagement with China.

In September activists from 200 different human rights groups wrote to international broadcast networks, urging them to cancel deals to show the Games. According to a letter sent to the networks, the groups said broadcasters were at “serious risk of being complicit in China’s plan to ‘sport wash’ the severe and worsening human rights abuses”. China has already ruled that no foreign spectators would be able to enter the country to attend the Games, part of its strict border controls and regional lockdown as it fights to eradicate Covid-19. Human Rights Watch also noted that visiting athletes and Chinese spectators might risk “censorship or reprisals” if they protested at the Games in a way that was critical of the government and the Chinese Communist party.' - Edward White - FT.



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