Just weeks before the start of the 2022 Winter Olympics, China is issuing a warning to athletes who will be competing in the games: Keep your mouth shut or else. The official statement was a bit more diplomatic than that but amounts to the same thing.
China said it may punish athletes whose words and actions go against Chinese laws at next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics, as human rights activists warned participants against speaking out on sensitive issues to ensure their safety during the Games.
“Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit, I’m sure will be protected. Any behaviour or speeches that are against the Olympic spirit, and especially against Chinese laws and regulations are also subjected to certain punishment,” Yang Shu, the deputy director general of the international relations department of the Beijing organising committee, said on Wednesday.
Yang was speaking at an online briefing for the Beijing Games, held by the Chinese embassy in Washington.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also has a rule against any political statements called Rule 50 so the IOC is effectively toeing the CCP line on this demand that athletes stay silent.
Human Rights Watch, which is constantly trying to raise the profile of various human rights issues, held a Zoom seminar in which it warned athletes not to speak up in China because the risks are too great to their freedom and safety.
“Chinese laws are very vague on the crimes that can be used to prosecute people’s free speech,” Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang said.
“People can be charged with picking quarrels or provoking trouble. There are all kinds of crimes that can be levelled at peaceful, critical comments.”
Noah Hoffman, a cross-country skier who represented the U.S. at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Games, said the American team was being shielded from questions about human rights…
“My hope for athletes there is that they stay silent because they are not only going to be prosecuted by the Chinese authorities, but they could also be punished by the IOC.”
In fact, athletes won’t even have to say something in public to potentially get on the wrong side of CCP censors. The Beijing Organising Committee has created an app to monitor athletes’ health but according to researchers in Canada, the app does not encrypt data and is open to hacking.
Non-encrypted data is transmitted to “tmail.beijing2022.cn” by MY2022.
“Such data can be read by any passive eavesdropper, such as someone in range of an unsecured WiFi access point, someone operating a WiFi hotspot, or an Internet Service Provider or other telecommunications company,” the report said.
Citizen Lab said it had informed the Beijing Winter Olympics Organising Committee on Dec. 3 of its security concerns but had not received any response.
That’s because the ability to monitor the data is a feature not a bug. Supposedly it’s not mandatory to use the app so hopefully American athletes will be advised to avoid it.
The bottom line here is that if you decide to hold the Olympics in a technologically advanced communist autocracy, one that routinely monitors and controls its own citizens, you have to expect the same will be done to athletes. China sees this as a moment to bolster its image. They aren’t going to let some outspoken athlete ruing that for them.
Speaking of outspoken athletes, NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom has spoken up quite a bit about China. He was recently invited to visit by Chinese basketball star Yao Ming. Freedom agreed to make the trip under certain conditions relating to his freedom of movement. I’m pretty certain China will not accept his conditions.
I heard that you are inviting me to China this summer.
Ok, I accept your invite,
I will be coming to China this summer,
But on this trip, pic.twitter.com/Q6qufuhDPL
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) January 19, 2022