Three protesters carrying a Tibetan flag and a banner that said “No genocide games” attempted to disrupt the flame-lighting ceremony for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics Monday.
The protesters, who are calling for a boycott of the games, tried to gain access to the ceremony at the Temple of Hera in Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics, but were quickly detained.
“How can Beijing be allowed to host the Olympics given that they are committing a genocide against the Uyghurs?” one protester said, in reference to China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.
China denies any mistreatment of the Uyghurs.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said in a speech at Olympia stadium that the modern games must be “respected as politically neutral ground.”
“Only this political neutrality ensures that the Olympic Games can stand above and beyond the political differences that exist in our times,” he said. “The Olympic Games cannot address all the challenges in our world. But they set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another.”
In a press release, Tibetan activists accused China of using the games to cover its human rights abuses “with the glamour and veneer of respectability the Olympic Games brings.”
Yu Zaiqing, vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said the games would bring “confidence, warmth and hope” to a world still dealing with the pandemic that started in China.
This was not the first time that protesters had taken issue with the Olympics being held in China. Pro-democracy protests broke out during the lighting ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.
The Beijing Winter Games will be held February 4-20, with only Chinese spectators able to attend.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.