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Beijing official warns athletes not to violate ‘Olympic spirit’

Ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, an official said that athletes could be punished for behavior that violates the Olympic spirit, “especially against Chinese laws and regulations” on human rights.

“Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected and anything and any behavior or speeches that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment,” Yang Shu, the deputy director general of Beijing 2022’s international relations department, said when asked about athletes speaking out against human rights issues during the games, Reuters reported.

Yang added that cancellation of accreditation is a possible form of punishment noted in the Organizers’ playbook. 

Yang’s remarks followed a Human Rights Watch seminar on Tuesday that warned athletes about speaking out on human rights issues while in China, according to Reuters. 

The country has been accused of committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups. However, it denies those allegations.

The Olympic Charter’s Rule 50 says, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites.”

That policy was loosened last year to permit gestures that were respectful to competitors and made without disruption, the news service added. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that athletes are welcome to express opinions in press conferences or interviews but should refrain from doing so during competition or medal ceremonies. 

“The Games are governed by the IOC Rules. They will be applied at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 like at any other edition of the Games before,” the IOC said in an email to The Hill.

During previous Olympic Games, competitors’ behavior that violated the Olympic charter was solely handled by the IOC, Reuters noted.

Updated at 10:01 a.m.

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