The IOC has been accused of ignoring human rights concerns prior to Beijing 2022 ©Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been criticised by rights groups for failing to condemn China’s alleged human rights violations, including against the Uyghur population.

IOC President Thomas Bach was asked at the concluding Tokyo 2020 Olympic press conference here whether he would denounce the internment of Uyghur Muslims in China.

IOC Presidential spokesperson Mark Adams intervened to say the press conference would be focused on Tokyo 2020 and the organisation would answer questions when it returns to Lausanne, the Swiss city where the IOC is headquartered.

A question on the IOC's expectations for Beijing 2022 was also declined.

The lack of public comment on the issue has been criticised by rights groups, including the World Uyghur Congress and the Tibet Action Institute.

Zumretay Arkin, campaigns and advocacy director at the World Uyghur Congress, said: "The IOC’s failure to stand up for human rights during an ongoing genocide against Uyghurs, and severe human rights violations in Tibet, Hong Kong, Southern Mongolia, and mainland China will forever be remembered by citizens of the world.

"Sports and politics will always be interlinked."

In Xinjiang, China has been accused of using forced Uyghur labour, operating a mass surveillance programme, detaining thousands in internment camps, carrying out forced sterilisations and intentionally destroying Uyghur heritage.

A United States State Department report published in January said this amounted to genocide.

Beijing claims the camps are training centres designed to stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism, and denies the charges laid against it.

Politicians from Britain, Australia and the United States have called for a diplomatic boycott due to the alleged human rights abuse in Hong Kong and of Uyghur Muslims.

A diplomatic boycott is expected from politicians in the US.

The IOC was accused of showing "cold indifference to genocide" at a Congressional Executive Committee on China (CECC) hearing last week, with the body grilling US-based Olympic sponsors.

Figures from Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Intel, Procter & Gamble and Visa - all part of The Olympic Partner (TOP) programme – were quizzed over their sponsorship of next year’s Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held from February 4 to 20 ©Getty Images
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be held from February 4 to 20 ©Getty Images

A coalition representing Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong and Chinese Democracy groups held a meeting with IOC officials in October as they called for the 2022 Games to be moved over the allegations.

Students for a Free Tibet, We The Hongkongers, International Tibet Network, World Uyghur Congress, and Humanitarian China/China Against the Death Penalty were among the organisations represented in the coalition.

Lhadon Tethong, director of Tibet Action Institute, said; "The IOC has chosen to ignore the fact that China is not a fit host for the Olympic Games, which leaves no choice for governments, sponsors, and even athletes to step up and the only course of action left; to boycott Beijing 2022.

"By attending the Games, China’s leaders will take it as an endorsement of their genocidal and repressive policies, and life for Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers, Chinese rights activists, and all targeted peoples will get even worse.

"As long as the IOC refuses to cancel or move the Games, boycott is the only option.

"With millions of lives at stake, we must do everything we can to push for change."

Bach previously said the IOC is "not a super-world Government" when asked about China's record on human rights in March.

The IOC President has repeatedly claimed that "a boycott of the Olympic Games has never achieved anything", with the organisation remaining neutral on political issues.

Human Rights Watch has called for the IOC to adopt its human rights strategy prior to Beijing 2022 to help stop serious human rights abuses, preventing the Games from becoming a "triumphal Chinese communist spectacle in the snow".

Recommendations for an IOC Human Rights Strategy was produced by independent experts Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Rachel Davis, vice-president of Shift, a non-profit centre of expertise on business and human rights last December.

This document was commissioned by the IOC in 2019 and was developed following a consultative process with internal staff and experts.

Pressure looks set to increase on the IOC regarding Beijing 2022, following the conclusion of rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics here.

There are six months until the start of Beijing 2022, with the Winter Olympics scheduled to take place from February 4 to 20, and the Winter Paralympics from March 4 to 13.

This would make Beijing the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games.