Human rights activists called Tuesday for a boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing because of China’s human right’s record.
Rights groups have continually urged the International Olympic Committee to delay the games and relocate the event unless Beijing halts what the United States maintains is an ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in China.
The IOC has steered away from the issue. IOC President Thomas Bach said the games must be respected as “politically neutral ground.”
The rights advocates say about 1 million Uyghurs are being held in camps. Some accuse Beijing of torture, forced sterilization and forced labor. China denies mistreating Uyghurs.
China has also received global criticism for its clampdown on protesters in Hong Kong and its policies toward Taiwan and Tibet.
In a handover ceremony Tuesday inside the heavily guarded empty stadium in Athens where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, Beijing Games Vice President Yu Zaiqing lit a small lantern from a flame ignited Sunday at the stadium.
The lantern will arrive in Beijing on Wednesday, initiating a torch relay that ends with the games opening on February 4.
Hours before the handover ceremony, Greek police cut off access to the stadium and surrounded it after Tibetan activists breached a police barrier as the flame was lit.
At an earlier news conference in Athens, the activists called on countries, sponsors and athletes to boycott what they called China's "Genocide Games."
The activists said anything less than a boycott would mean the global community is complicit in accepting the actions by Beijing, the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games.
The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse provided information for this report.