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Tibetan activists disrupt Olympics ceremony over China human rights abuse

Human rights protestors raise Tibetan flag against Beijing Winter Olympics (Photo: Students For a Free Tibet)

Human rights activists supporting the Tibetan cause unfurled a banner and waved a flag asking for boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Ancient Olympia, Athens, on Monday.

Three activists, two women and a man, disrupted the traditional torch-lighting ceremony despite the venue being sealed off for days. Four other people were detained by the police outside the ancient Greek stadium and temple.

The activists from the group, Students for a Free Tibet, unfurled a "No genocide" banner even as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, looked on.

The activists were led away by police.

A global campaign, 'No Beijing 2022', is urging countries to boycott the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics spotlighting human rights abuses by China in Xinjiang and Tibet. Many US, British and European lawmakers also support the campaign citing human rights violations of its ethnic minorities by Beijing.

The world is divided over the boycott as athletes and many countries do not want to boycott the games.

Greece's Olympic Committee (HOC), felt disappointed that the ceremony had been disturbed. In a statement, it said: "The lighting of the Olympic flame represents 3,000 years of Greek history and a commitment to peace and dialogue".

It added: "While the HOC respects individual rights to freedom of expression, it is disappointing that this traditional cultural event has been used by a few individuals for other purposes."

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But activists are planning more protests and plan to organise a news conference on Tuesday when the flame will be officially handed over to Chinese organisers in Athens.

India Narrative had earlier reported that many civil society groups are mounting pressure on corporates and media organisations to cancel their deals for the Beijing winter games.

Activists have launched the "NoBeijing2022" hashtag for their global campaign.

Human rights campaigners feel that allowing China to hold the games will give legitimacy to Beijing and embolden it to further deprive its minorities of basic freedoms and human rights.

Campaigners say that Beijing has tightened surveillance on ethnic minorities like the Tibetans, put more Muslim Ughyurs in concentration camps and has completely suspended international laws in Hong Kong.

China defends itself saying it has set up vocational training centres for the Ughyurs to combat extremism.

For the Beijing 2008 games also, the torch lighting ceremony was disrupted by human rights activists.