China warns foreign athletes will face ‘certain punishment’ for speech not in the ‘Olympic spirit’

  • Foreign athletes set to participate in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing have been warned that “any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit” is subject to “certain punishment.”
  • A rule established by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter similarly prohibits any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in any Olympic area.
  • The maximum punishment that an Olympic athlete may face for engaging in political action has yet to be confirmed.

Foreign athletes competing in the upcoming 2022 Winter Games in Beijing have been warned against making political statements.

A member of the Beijing Organizing Committee told reporters on Tuesday that Olympic athletes’ remarks and behavior “will be protected” if they are “in line with the Olympic spirit.” However, athletes may be held accountable for saying or doing anything “against Chinese laws and regulations,” reported The Washington Post.

“Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment,” said Deputy Director General of International Relations for the Beijing Organizing Committee (BOC) Yang Shu.

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The warning partly coincides with Rule 50 of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter which prohibits any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in any Olympic area. However, the BOC’s inclusion of “speech” in its warning indicates a much stricter implementation of this rule.

While China has been known to punish government critics with prison sentences, how it will impose its “certain punishment” on a foreign athlete still remains unclear. 

When asked by reporters about the maximum punishment an Olympic athlete could receive for “political demonstration at the Games,” Yang refused to give an answer.

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Earlier this week, it was discovered that the mandatory health tracking app for the Games’ participants, MY2022, has security flaws that allegedly put users’ personal data at risk, reported Reuters.

According to members of the cybersecurity research group Citizen Lab, a file named “illegalwords.txt” was discovered while they were investigating the Android version of the app. The file reportedly has a list of 2,442 keywords which mostly “appear to be either politically motivated or social content referencing pornography (e.g., 成人论坛, adult forum), swear words (e.g., “f*ck your mother), and illegal goods (e.g., C4塑胶TNT, C4 plastic TNT).”

A BOC official addressed the situation on Tuesday, claiming that the committee will work on “patch[ing] any security vulnerabilities in the app.” He added that they did not know the list of keywords even existed.

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Featured Image via CGTN

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