“The IOC’s remit is to ensure that there is no human rights abuses in respect of the conduct of the Games within the National Olympic Committee, or within the Olympic movement,” Coates said Wednesday. “We have no ability to go into a country and tell them what to do. … We are not a world government.”
The State Department, alongside several European legislatures, has classified the human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang — which include mass detention and alleged torture — as “genocide.” Many legal scholars familiar with Beijing’s heavy-handed attempt to ethnically assimilate Uyghurs have said it meets the definition of crimes against humanity.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in May called for a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games — not sending an official delegation, while still allowing athletes to compete. British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has said he’s unlikely to attend the Games, although it is his “instinct to separate sport from diplomacy and politics.”
Beijing’s embassy in Canberra didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has previously said there has never been “genocide, forced labor and religious oppression” in Xinjiang.
Coates was asked by reporters Wednesday why the IOC assisted athletes from Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August, but would not take a stand in Olympic host countries.
“The work the IOC is doing is to protect the Olympians and those involved in the Olympic moments, those who comprise the sports federation in Afghanistan — that’s within our remit,” Coates said.
The IOC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, but the explanation has not satisfied its critics.
“They say that it is not the governing [body’s] remit to dictate to sovereign countries. That just means the remit is wrong,” said Rex Patrick, an independent Australian senator who has called for the country to boycott the Beijing Games, in an email. “There can’t be Olympic neutrality in the face of genocide.”
Coates’s remarks Wednesday echo comments IOC chief Thomas Bach made at a news conference earlier this year, when he said: “We are not a super world government where the IOC could solve or even address issues for which not the U.N. Security Council, no G-7, no G-20 has solutions.”