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In July 2015, Beijing was chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, becoming the first city to be awarded both the summer and winter Games. Beijing was chosen over the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan.

At the time the human rights NGO, Human Rights Watch, described the IOC’s awarding of the Games to China as a “slap in the face to China’s besieged human rights activists”.

In September 2020 over 160 human rights advocacy groups delivered a joint letter to the IOC, calling for it to reconsider its choice to award Beijing the 2022 Games in light of China’s human rights record.

Asked to respond to the letter, the IOC said through a spokesperson that they remain neutral on global political issues, and that awarding the Olympic Games to a national committee “does not mean that the IOC agrees with the political structure, social circumstances or human rights standards in its country”.

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee have recommended that the UK does not send officials to the Olympics, a so called “diplomatic boycott”.

The European Parliament have passed a non-binding resolution calling for a diplomatic boycott by EU officials and Member State governments. Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has also advocated the policy.

A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in September 2020, that linking the “so-called human rights issue with the Beijing Winter Olympics in an attempt to pressure China”, makes “the mistake of politicizing sports events”, and that such behaviour “goes against the spirit of the Olympic Charter and disrupts and jeopardizes the progress of the global human rights cause”.

On 22 March 2021, the UK Government announced it was placing sanctions on four Chinese officials and an official body, it labelled as “perpetrators of gross human rights violations taking place against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang”. These sanctions were announced in concert with the EU, Canada and the US.

On 26 March China announced it was imposing its own sanctions in response on nine UK citizens, including five MPs and two peers. The BBC reported that a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said China was forced to act “in self-defence” in response to UK sanctions “based on lies”.

A full overview of these issues are available in the debate pack below.

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