"How will our athletes feel in China competing in the Winter Olympics and knowing that millions of Uighurs are in concentration camps? I would suggest that they think about it and make public statements," Robertas Mazeika, one of the organizers of the protest, told reporters.

He said the Olympics are "inherently incompatible" with China's "criminal policies" against Tibetans, Uighurs, Hong Kong democracy supporters and other minorities.

Education, Science and Sports Minister Jurgita Siugzdiniene said earlier this month that she would not go to China to watch the Games, adding that other members of the Cabinet were not planning to do so either.

The United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games.

The participants of Friday's picket outside the Chinese embassy waved Tibetan flags and held placards calling for respect for human rights, independence for Tibet and a boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

The XXIV Olympic Winter Games are due to be held in Beijing and neighboring Hebei Province on February 4 through 20.

Up to 14 Lithuanian athletes are expected to compete in the Games, with the final list to be announced in January.

Tibet lost its autonomy from China back in 1951 after the Chinese army invaded the territory that had declared independence.

Lithuania officially considers the Himalayan region of Tibet to be a part of China, but, along with other EU member countries, calls for peaceful regulation of relations between the Chinese administration and Tibetans.

Recently, China has been facing mounting criticism from around the world over its treatment of the mostly Muslim Uighur population in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

Human rights groups say at least a million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are being held in the so-called "re-education camps" in Xinjiang.

Observers say such facilities are part of a government campaign to forcibly assimilate ethnic minorities, sometimes using torture and forced labor. Mass rapes and the forced sterilization of women are also alleged to have taken place in the camps.

China initially denied the existence of the camps, but it now describes them as vocational education and training centers aimed at countering Muslim radicalism and separatist tendencies.

Beijing says people attend the centers voluntarily and improve their employment prospects.

It is prohibited to copy and republish the text of this publication without a written permission from UAB „BNS“.
Comment Show discussion