FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 26 JANUARY 2022
Jacob Kessler | +1 516-776-6472 | Jacob@studentsforafreetibet.org
***A recording of today’s press briefing is available at http://bit.ly/SFTMedia123.
NEW YORK—Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) activists’ efforts to engage with athletes heading to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics were curtailed by Team USA at a number of qualifying events in the United States. In spite of efforts to stop the meetings, the activists successfully briefed more than two dozen athletes and their message was well-received. During face-to-face meetings, athletes were presented with an open letter from Tibetan, Uyghur, and Hong Konger students appealing to them to engage in dialogue on China’s escalating human rights violations.
The activists attended two Olympic qualifying events as well as the X Games.  After a day of positive engagement in Mammoth, the activists were told to take down the signs saying “Athletes: take a stand against the Uyghur genocide” and “Athletes: We need you! Speak out for Tibet!” They were then told that they were “endangering” the safety of athletes. At Pettit National Ice Center, activists witnessed Team USA speed skaters being escorted from the venue by security to shield them from engaging with Tibetans and Hongkongers; and at the X Games, after a successful morning speaking uncurtailed, athletes abruptly stopped engaging with activists and one stated that he is going to China soon and he is not able to take anything because of “strict instructions” that he was given.
“Team USA’s attempts to block us from speaking with athletes about China’s rights violations stand in stark contrast to the reception we got from athletes themselves,” said Pema Doma, Campaigns Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “The athletes were extremely receptive to our message and showed great concern for Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers and others being persecuted by the Chinese government. The athletes have every right to engage in dialogue with us on these critical issues and Team USA should support them in doing so, as this is the right thing to do,” she added.
Frances Hui, Director of We The Hongkongers, added: “Athletes are people of conscience with strong opinions about issues including human rights. And, rather than crackdown on athletes’ access to human rights activists, they should have the opportunity to learn about the situation they are walking into in Beijing. Team USA should be welcoming dialogue with those affected by CCP brutality, and this dialogue must be respected. Rather than crackdown on the access athletes have to discuss critical issues, Team USA should have athletes’ backs and support their right to speak out.”
Activists are now calling on Team USA to issue an immediate statement that all US athletes going to Beijing 2022 will be fully supported and protected if they choose to speak out about human rights in Tibet, East Turkestan, and Hong Kong. In January the British Olympic Committee made a public statement that British athletes competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics will be supported if they choose to make political and social statements. 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- DATES AND VENUES OF WINTER SPORTING COMPETITIONS:
- 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Long Track Speed Skating at the Pettit National Ice Center, January 5-9, 2022
- 2022 Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, January 6-9, 2022
- X Games in Aspen, January 20-23, 2022
- Team GB chiefs back athletes’ right to protest at Beijing Games, The Times: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/winter-olympics-team-gb-chiefs-back-athletes-right-to-protest-at-beijing-games-gg9qdznm3