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Airbnb urged to withdraw from Olympic sponsorship

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Airbnb asked to withdraw sponsorship to the 2021 winter Olympics in Beijing by coalition of rights groups

By Tenzin Dharpo

DHARAMSHALA, Mar. 23: A coalition of 150 human rights groups have asked Airbnb to withdraw from Olympic sponsorship to the upcoming winter Olympic games in Beijing, citing deteriorating human rights condition in Xinjiang and Tibet.

Airbnb whose valuation surged past 100 billion in 2020 is among a host of wealthy sponsors including Samsung, Coca-cola, Visa, Toyota, Alibaba, Intel and Panasonic among others. The sponsors have contributed about $1 billion in cash or services in the last complete, four-year Olympic cycle, to be associated with the games.

The home-sharing company is at the center of the campaigner’s plea as it has repeatedly claimed to practice “social responsibility” in its business model. An open letter by the coalition of rights groups to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said that China’s push to scale tourism through the Olympic games comes at the steep cost of undermining and supressing the rights of Tibetans and Uygyurs by the Chinese government.

“Airbnb is also glossing over China’s horrifying human rights record and normalizing to the public what is recognized under international law as a deeply restrictive environment.

“Airbnb should not be encouraging a wider tourist industry to be supported and allowed to flourish at the expense of Uyghur and Tibetan rights,” the letter said.

Human rights campaigners have called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), nations and their sporting bodies for diplomatic boycott and even out-right boycott of the winter games in Beijing.  

Tibetan activists have also chimed in to protest against the IOC for awarding China the hosting honors yet again. Tashi Shitsetsang from the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe (TYAE) said, “The IOC knows full well the extent of China’s human rights abuses – we have told them directly – but they have actively chosen to ignore us and to turn a blind eye to the brutal occupation of Tibet, the crackdown in Hong Kong and the genocide that is happening in East Turkistan. The IOC has the blood of our people on its hands.” 

The 2021 winter games will be Beijing’s second Olympics in 14 years, following the 2008 Summer Games. In the aftermath of the 2008 Olympics, Tibet saw increased and widespread crackdown resulting in more state sponsored repression of the Tibetan people.

Until now, only U.K. has spoken out with its Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab saying in October that he had not ruled out Britain boycotting the Olympics due to China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority in occupied East Turkestan.

China is set to host the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing from 4 to 20 February 2022.

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