Letter to Olympic sponsors

[targetted sponsor’s address]

[date issued] 

Dear [person-in-charge’s name and title] 

We, a coalition of over 190 global campaign groups, are writing this letter to raise our serious concerns about [name of sponsor]’s agreement to support the Beijing 2022 Winter Games as part of the company’s Olympic partnership. Given the Chinese government’s discriminatory policies against Tibetans and Uyghurs and its repressive policies against other people under its rule, we urge you to withdraw your support for the 2022 Winter Games. Such a move would clearly signal [name of sponsor]’s opposition to human rights violations, including what governments are increasingly recognizing as a genocide against the Uyghur people. 

In less than a year the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games will open, against a backdrop of severe repression and worsening human rights. The Chinese authorities have been promoting this prestigious event as “open” and “inclusive”, and that it will create a “harmonious world” and promote “social progress”. With over 2 million Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in internment camps, with pro-democracy activists being rounded up en masse in Hong Kong, and with Tibet now listed as the least free place in the world2, alongside Syria, it is hard to imagine how this will be the case.

Due to China’s systematic racist policies, Tibetans and Uyghurs will be unable to freely travel to watch the 2022 Winter Games. Tibetans and Uyghurs face severe restrictions on their right to freedom of movement in Tibet, East Turkistan (Ch: Xinjiang), across China and abroad. In Tibet, checkpoints3 prevent Tibetans from freely visiting their family in other parts of the country or from undertaking religious pilgrimages. Even in their own locality, Tibetans live under constant surveillance, from CCTV in monasteries to facial recognition and real-time monitoring in taxis in Lhasa.4 

[In the following paragraphs, you will need insert relevant arguments for the specific sponsor you are sending this to]

One key method of control used by Chinese authorities is the denial of passports to Tibetans and Uyghurs, a practice in contravention of Chinese law6 and which has been severely condemned by United Nations experts.7 This practice is particularly relevant to Airbnb, since as your website notes, it is impossible to book accommodation – hotels or Airbnb – anywhere in China without a passport.8 Furthermore Tibetans and Uyghurs are frequently rejected from booking accommodation9 and reports evidence that individuals with these ethnic identities have been ‘blacklisted’ from booking hotel rooms in major Chinese cities, with staff being forced to inform local police stations if they try to check in.10 

As the above evidence shows, the very idea that accessibility would be extended to Tibetans or Uyghurs to travel freely during Beijing 2022 or to stay in an Airbnb could not be further from reality. By promoting Beijing listings as a tourist destination, Airbnb is also glossing over China’s horrifying human rights record and normalising to the public what is recognised under international law as a deeply restrictive environment. Airbnb should not be encouraging a wider tourist industry to be supported and allowed to flourish at the expense of Uyghur and Tibetan rights. 

Airbnb was started with the mission of empowering local communities. It is that focus on ‘people power’ which makes the company so attractive to many and has enabled it to grow into the company it is today. With over 220 countries and regions with Airbnb listings, and over 4 million hosts who have welcomed over 800 million guests across the globe, Airbnb is hugely influential – and it has the power to help stop this injustice. Partnering with a government whose policies go against the very core of Airbnb’s public commitment to human rights,11is an affront to that original mission. Airbnb should not sidestep those values to reap the financial rewards that come with sponsoring a major sporting event that is taking place in such a repressive environment.

We urge you to use your influence with the IOC to press for the Games to be moved and if this does not happen to immediately remove your support, or risk being tainted by the association. By terminating this agreement, [name of sponsor] has an opportunity to send a clear message that it will not tolerate dealing with governments that profit from forced occupation, genocide, and human rights violations and would be leading the way in the [business sector sponsor belongs to] sector and demonstrating a true commitment to ending human rights abuses.

We request the opportunity to meet with you and other representatives of [name of sponsor] to discuss our serious concerns regarding the situation facing Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong, Southern Mongolian and Chinese representatives. Please contact [contact person and details] to discuss arranging this meeting. 

Yours sincerely, 

[list of co-signers]

 

Notes

1 Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, 

https://www.beijing2022.cn/en/about_us/vision.htm

2 Freedom House, Countries and Territories, https://freedomhouse.org/countries/freedom-world/scores
3 Radio Free Asia, “‘Discipline Committees’ Boost Surveillance, Tighten Security in Tibet” 11 March 2021: https://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/discipline-03112021153907.html 

4 Global Times, ‘Lhasa uses facial recognition, big data analysis in new taxies’, 5 March 2019: 

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1141065.shtml 

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