150 human rights groups sent a letter to Audemars Piguet (Airbnb) on Tuesday (March 23) saying they are asking it to withdraw its sponsorship of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing based on Beijing’s oppressive behavior toward ethnic minorities such as Uighurs and Tibetans.
Audemars Piguet is one of 15 major sponsors of the IOC, with other large sponsors including Coca-Cola, Samsung, Visa, Alibaba, Toyota, Panasonic, Intel and Procter & Gamble. Audemars Piguet has been a prime target for advocacy groups due to its special emphasis on corporate social responsibility.
In a letter to Audemars Piguet CEO Brian Chesky, the human rights group said that by sponsoring the Beijing Winter Olympics, Audemars Piguet is pushing people to travel to China at the expense of Uyghur and Tibetan rights.
“By whitewashing China’s poor human rights record and normalizing in public what international law views as a severely restrictive environment,” the letter reads, “Audemars Piguet should not be stimulating tourism at the expense of the rights of Uighurs and Tibetans.”
The letter goes on to say that because of the Chinese government’s repressive policies toward Tibetans and Uyghurs, “we urge Audemars Piguet to withdraw its sponsorship of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. This would send a clear message that Audemars Piguet opposes human rights abuses, particularly the genocide that multiple governments have identified as being committed by Beijing against the Uighurs.”
Human rights groups are now beginning to target Olympic sponsors to push for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Games in a bid to further pressure the Chinese government to change its oppressive policies in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.
No sponsors have yet been willing to take a stand on this. The Voice of America earlier quoted analysts as saying that sponsors are not yet feeling the intense political pressure as the world is still focused on Epidemic preparedness and on the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics in July.
Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College and an expert on Olympic economics, said in an earlier interview with the Voice of America that if protests against Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet and other issues continue, it will be very “embarrassing” for China. “The “negative publicity” will also affect the reputation of the Olympic Games global partner sponsors.
Meanwhile, several U.S. and Canadian lawmakers have publicly boycotted the Beijing Olympics and sent letters to the IOC, hoping to change the location of the 2022 Winter Games.
The IOC has been silent on the issue. The official position of the IOC is that the body is an international sporting body and is not involved in politics. In response to calls seeking a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, the IOC quoted an anonymous spokesman as saying the body “does not have the power nor the ability to change the legal or political system of a sovereign country.”
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has said it will not boycott the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China. Susanne Lyons, the committee’s president, said earlier this month that the body does not want to downplay the human rights issues taking place in China, but “we don’t think such a boycott would work and would only hurt the athletes who have devoted their lives to training to represent their country at that competition.”
In response, China’s foreign ministry said it opposes the politicization of sports and interference in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of human rights.