Winter Olympics 2022
Local residents celebrate after Beijing was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics at a square in Chongli county of Zhangjiakou, jointly bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games with capital Beijing, July 31, 2015. Reuters

A human rights advocacy group criticized the International Olympic Committee Friday after it selected Beijing, China’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics despite its poor human rights record. Critics accused Beijing of various violations when it last hosted the Olympics in 2008, including forced evictions without proper compensation and unwarranted arrests of human rights advocates.

“The Olympic motto of ‘higher, faster, and stronger’ is a perfect description of the Chinese government’s assault on civil society: more peaceful activists detained in record time, subject to far harsher treatment,” Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson said in a press release. “In choosing China to host another Games, the IOC has tripped on a major human rights hurdle.”

Officials chose between bids from Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan at its 128th IOC Congress in Malaysia, months after several European cities dropped out of the race for various reasons. China’s bid was considered a clear favorite, mostly because the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were considered a logistical success. Both China and Kazakhstan have poor human rights records.

The last China-hosted Olympics were also marred by accusations of widespread human rights abuses. Beijing failed to address its rampant air pollution problem, despite assurances to the IOC that it would be solved before athletes arrived in the city for the Games. China imposed significant limits of domestic journalists, arrested human rights activists without cause and committed various labor rights violations, the Human Rights Watch said. More than 260 activists have been arrested since June 2015, the Guardian reported.

The IOC downplayed criticism of China’s human rights record before the vote, stating in a June report that officials in Beijing had provided “written assurances” they would uphold the Olympic Charter, Reuters reported. As of December 2014, host nations were required to guarantee a certain standard of protection for press freedom, the LGBT community, labor rights and the local environment. But critics point out there’s no clear mechanism for the IOC to enforce its own rules.