FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 18 OCTOBER 2021
OLYMPIA, October 18—Tibetan rights activists protesting against the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics disrupted the official torch lighting ceremony at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia, Greece. The activists, Tibetan-Canadian Chemi Lhamo, Jason Leith of London-based Free Tibet, and Fern MacDougal gained access to a spot near the entrance to the stadium, despite intense security to prevent protests. Meanwhile, outside the venue, four other Tibetan activists were detained by Greek police at the direction of Chinese officials.
The activists inside the venue unveiled a banner and a Tibetan flag, close to where the ceremony was taking place, and shouted slogans calling for a boycott of the Games. The banner had bloody handprints on it and the words “No Genocide Games.” Their voices were heard loudly as the Olympic Torch was lit. Chemi Lhamo proceeded to shout, “how can Beijing be allowed to host the Olympics given that they are committing a genocide against the Uyghurs?” Security guards quickly took their banners and threw the activists to the ground. They were then detained and as of 6:05PM EEST are still detained in Pyrgos.
Earlier in the day, at approximately 10:30 am EEST, four Tibetan activists standing on the public sidewalk outside of the ceremony venue were detained by Greek police at the direction of Chinese officials. They were not engaged in any protest, nor wearing any political paraphernalia. Minutes before the activists were detained, one of the Chinese officials identified himself to police as being “from the embassy” and was overheard telling the police he wanted them gone. After further consulting with a group of Chinese officials on the scene, Greek police approached and detained the activists. They were held at a nearby police station for four hours before being released. They were not charged with any crime and, in fact, a Greek police officer told the activists that “there is no reason, and we don’t need a reason to bring you here.”
Human rights advocates and activists around the world are calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics due to the CCP’s human rights atrocities committed against Tibetans, Uyghurs, Southern Mongolians, and Hong Kongers. Earlier, IOC President Thomas Bach, used his speech before the ceremony to call for global solidarity, saying “There can be no peace without solidarity.” Today, the activists demonstrated their solidarity with peoples oppressed by the Chinese government.
Chemi Lhamo, Tibetan-Canadian activist, said:
“How can China host the 2022 Winter Olympics when they’re carrying out an unprecedented campaign of repression in Tibet, eviscerating language rights in Southern Mongolia, destroying Hong Kong democracy, and committing a genocide against the Uyghur people. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is trying to eliminate our identities and silence our voices. However, today we demonstrated that fighting back against Chinese authoritarianism is possible. We will keep resisting the ‘Genocide Games’ and we will never give up fighting the CCP until Tibet is free.”
Jason Leith of Free Tibet, said:
“The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly put greed ahead of the Olympic ideals so it is up to governments around the world to take action and withdraw their teams from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. The Chinese government’s reaction to recent sanctions by the UK government shows that it is sensitive to symbolic actions that disrupt its attempts to paint a rosy picture of life under its rule. A full boycott of these Games will send a clear message that the world will no longer stand idly by as the Chinese government continually escalates its abuses.”
Pema Doma, Campaigns Director of Students for a Free Tibet, said:
“That Chinese government officials were directing Greek police to detain us today, in the birthplace of democracy, is further evidence of the danger China’s authoritarian influence poses to the international community. The threat from Beijing is not just the trampling of human rights and freedom at home, or in occupied Tibet, it is a global threat that seeks to undermine shared values like freedom of speech, assembly and the rule of law.”
For additional updates, visual requests, and interviews:
Jacob Kessler: Jacob@studentsforafreetibet.org