Chinese Authorities Warn Foreign Athletes Not to Protest
Thursday, January 20, the first snow of this year fell in the Chinese capital, which improved the overall atmosphere of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Beijing has officially entered the Olympic period, preparing to receive massive arrivals of delegations from around the world in the coming days, testing its anti-epidemic defenses. According to the Chinese official publication Global Times, the capital of China is fiercely fighting both the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and Delta, strengthening measures to ensure the safe conduct of the Games. Officials, athletes and staff in charge of the event promise that the Olympic event will run smoothly and successfully.
Comparing the 2022 Games to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the organizers say the overall situation has greatly improved to date, such as the country's increased ability to apply big data and artificial intelligence technologies to help ensure security during the world's biggest sporting event.
Meanwhile, if on the eve of the 2008 Olympics there was criticism of Beijing in the West, the intensity of passions today looks much hotter. China and Western countries are preparing not only for sports, but also for political battles.
The Chinese authorities have warned Olympic athletes that they will be “punished” if they stage anti-Beijing protests during the Winter Games, writes the Daily Mail .
This warning is from Yang Shu, Deputy Director General of Beijing 2022 International Relations Department.
As you know, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been criticized for allowing China to host the Olympic Games amid accusations against Beijing in connection with human rights violations against minority groups, in particular the Uyghurs, whom the United States considers victims of “genocide”. For its part, China denies allegations of human rights violations.
Speaking at a virtual briefing hosted by the Chinese embassy in Washington on Wednesday, Yang Shu said, “I am confident that any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit will be protected, and any behavior or speech that is contrary to the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, will also subject to certain punishment. The official added that the cancellation of accreditation is a potential punishment in accordance with the recommendations of the organizers.
And while one of the rules of the Olympic Charter states that “demonstrations or political, religious or racial propaganda are prohibited at any Olympic venues,” this requirement was relaxed last year to allow gestures on the field – provided they are performed without violation and with respect for competitors.
The IOC has also made it clear that athletes are free to express their opinion on any matter at press conferences and in interviews, unless this happens during competitions or award ceremonies.
At the past Olympic Games, any violation of the Olympic Charter by athletes was dealt with exclusively by the IOC, and not by the host country, reminds the Daily Mail.
But Human Rights Watch watchdogs recently warned Olympians not to speak out on rights issues in Beijing for their own safety, and also referred to the “Orwellian surveillance state” that the organization claims China has become. .
As Dr. Sophie Richardson, director of China for Human Rights Watch, said recently, one of the features of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was “the use by the authorities of what was then considered high technology,” but, in her words, “it pales in comparison with the Orwellian state of surveillance that authorities are now using across the country, where tools such as artificial intelligence and intelligent police, big data databases, extensive social media surveillance, prevent people from participating in certain types of conversations. Everyone who travels to the country for these Games – journalists, athletes, coaches – should know that such surveillance can also affect them.
Particular concerns in the West are that the smartphone app that China requires all athletes attending the Beijing Winter Games to download has security issues that could expose sensitive data.
China is requiring all foreign Olympic participants, including coaches and journalists, to download and start using the app 14 days before departure, according to Western media. This app allows users to send essential health information daily and is part of China's efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic during the Olympics. The multi-purpose application also includes chat features, file transfer, weather updates, travel advice and GPS navigation.
Olympians in a number of Western countries have been advised to bring disposable phones to the Games amid fears that Chinese intelligence agencies will hack into their mobile devices. In particular, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has already issued a recommendation to athletes advising them to “assume that every device and every communication, transaction, and online activity will be monitored.”
“Security should not be expected.” or data privacy when operating in China,” this guide says.
Internet watchdog group Citizen Lab said in a report that the MY2022 app has serious encryption flaws that make sensitive user data and any other data transmitted through it vulnerable to hacking. According to the report, other sensitive user data in the app was not encrypted at all.
This means that Chinese ISPs or telecommunications companies can read data through Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels, airports and Olympic venues, writes the Daily Mail.
However, the Citizen Lab report states that there is no evidence that the easily detectable security flaws in the MY2022 app were intentionally posted by the Chinese government. First, it is argued that much of the sensitive health information stored on the app must be submitted directly to the authorities on healthcare customs forms. Citizen Lab also stated that the security vulnerabilities found in the MY2022 app are similar to those found in popular Chinese web browsers, and noted that “the lack of protection for user data is common in the Chinese app ecosystem.”
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Several countries, including the US, UK, Japan and Australia, have effectively declared a diplomatic boycott of the Games due to human rights concerns in China. In particular, in the West, Beijing is accused of detaining more than a million Uyghurs in Xinjiang in the framework, as claimed by Western politicians. campaigns to “destroy the traditional culture, language and” Turkic Muslim population. China, on the other hand, not only denies human rights violations, but also condemns the boycott as a betrayal of Olympic principles.
The POLITICO publication divided the countries whose leaders decided to skimp on their presence at the Olympic events in the capital of China.
The first group includes those states that defiantly announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics.
One of the first in early December decided to diplomatically boycott the Beijing Olympics Lithuania. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Baltic Republic announced that the head of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, Gabrielius Landsbergis, will not take part in the Winter Olympics. Vilnius and Beijing have had a rocky relationship in recent months as Lithuania's deepening ties with Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.
The United States also announced a diplomatic boycott – the Biden administration announced on December 6 that it would not send an official US delegation to Beijing. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited “the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang” as the reasons for the demarche.
Official representatives of the Australian government will not go to the Olympics in China either. However, Australian athletes will compete in the Games, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said when Canberra decided on Dec. 8 to join the boycott. Almost simultaneously, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that his government ministers would not be present at the Games. “It will be in fact a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics,” Johnson said, justifying London’s decision by accusing China of human rights violations.
Then, on December 8, Canada announced a diplomatic boycott of the sporting event. “We will not be sending any diplomatic representatives to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing this winter,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, adding that the Maple Leaf decision should not “come as a surprise” to China.
Later, Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo announced his intention not to send representatives of the federal government to the Winter Olympics in the Chinese capital. Denmark and Estonia also joined the diplomatic boycott.
Another group of countries, according to POLITICO, were those states that motivated the absence of their official representatives at the Games in Beijing with fears related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In particular, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said on December 7 that Wellington would not send government officials to China due to a number of factors, “but mostly related to COVID.”
And Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in December, opposed the “politicization of the Games”, but made it clear, however, that due to the demands made in connection with the coronavirus in China, there would be no high-ranking politicians from Austria in Beijing. “I prefer to meet our athletes in person in Vienna,” Nehammer said.
As the reason for his absence from the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, Slovenian President Borut Pahor the current wave of coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic motivated Sweden's decision not to send government representatives to the Beijing Olympics and the sports minister of the Scandinavian country Anders Igeman, while making an awkward nod to China: “This is not a diplomatic boycott.”
The Netherlands will not send an official diplomatic delegation to the Olympics, the Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman citing COVID-19 restrictions. According to him, because of these measures, there will not be enough substantive options for discussing “the great concern of the Netherlands about the human rights situation.”
As for Japan, Tokyo took an ambivalent position, avoiding mentioning a diplomatic boycott and stating that high-ranking representatives will not be sent to Beijing, in part because of human rights concerns, but Olympic officials will go, one of whom is also a member of parliament.
A number of European countries are weighing the pros and cons, trying to determine the level of participation of their representatives in the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Games. Against this background, with great surprise, the observers perceived the decision of Polish President Andrzej Duda, despite the position of the United States, to go to the Olympics in Beijing and meet with Xi Jinping.
“Poland is a sovereign state and decides its own policy towards China,” Duda's foreign affairs adviser Jakub Kumoch told Reuters. “Poland is an ally of the United States, but Poland also has very friendly relations with China.”
As Poland's relations with the United States deteriorated under the Joe Biden administration, continued criticism of Beijing is just to to please the Americans is no longer in the interests of Warsaw. Moreover, the Polish president's relations with China have recently been positive: he made a surprise appearance at the 17+1 summit with China, while other Central European countries sent representatives of a lower rank. Duda said that Poland plans to take advantage of its geographical position to increase its role in trade between Europe and China.
According to the Chinese edition of the Global Times, some top leaders and officials of international organizations have already confirmed their participation in the Olympic events. organizations such as UN Secretary General António Guterres, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene.