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Olympic Flame Arrives In Beijing Amid Continued Criticism Of China's Human Rights Record

A protester holds a Tibetan flag as security officers intervene during the Olympic flame lighting ceremony for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Athens on October 18.

The Olympic flame has arrived in China for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games as protests over China's human rights record continue to mar the run-up to the Olympics.

State media reported on October 20 that the flame arrived and was expected to go on display at the Beijing Olympic Tower before going on tour.

The flame was lit at a ceremony in Olympia, Greece, on October 18 and transferred the following day to the organizers of the Beijing Games, which begin on February 4, 2022.

Protesters disrupted the lighting ceremony, demanding that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) postpone the event.

The protest was the latest to put pressure on the IOC to postpone the Olympics and relocate it unless China ends gross human rights abuses, including what Washington deems an ongoing genocide of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Muslim, ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

The U.S. State Department has said that as many as 2 million Uyghurs and other minorities have been incarcerated in detention camps in the Xinjiang region. Exiles say the Chinese central government practices religious repression, torture, and forced sterilization at the camps.

China has vehemently denied human rights abuses in the region and says the camps are vocational training centers aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

IOC Chairman Thomas Bach has brushed off talks of a boycott, citing the IOC’s political neutrality and saying it is up to governments to live up to their responsibilities.

Some veteran U.S. Olympians on October 19 denounced China's track record on human rights but stopped short of endorsing a boycott.

"Every human deserves to be treated equally with respect and dignity and fairness,” said two-time Olympic luger Tucker West at a media summit held by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

Regarding the boycott, West said it was not his job to decide where the Olympics are held.

Three-time Olympic ice dancer Evan Bates offered a strong denunciation of China’s human rights record.

"I have no problem speaking for the athletes and saying that what's happening there is terrible and we're human beings too and when we read and hear about the things that are happening there, we absolutely hate that. We hate what's going on there," he said but added that celebrating "what the Olympic movement stands for" is also important.

Figure skater Nathan Chen, who won a bronze medal in the team event at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, said for change to occur “there must be power that is beyond the Olympics. It has to be change at a remarkable scale.”

With reporting by AFP and Reuters