About 50 critics of the Chinese government gathered in Downtown Vancouver Sunday to call on the Canadian government to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, scheduled for next February.
"Support for Beijing 2022 will be seen as an endorsement of China's severe and extensive crackdown on freedom and human rights," said Mabel Tung of the group Vancouver Society in Support of Democracy.
"We urge everyone to stand on the right side of history and not support the 'genocide games.'
"Olympic spirit is supposed to be celebrated by diversity, peace, friendship and respect," said Tung, a vocal local critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime, which controls the People's Republic of China.
The rally was supported by other human rights groups, including the Global Pinoy Diaspora Canada, East Turkistan Association of Canada, Friends of Canada India Organization, Thai Democratic Movement in Canada, Vancouver Society of Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights for China, and the Vancouver Uyghur Association.
People waved various independent flags, such as those representing Tibet, Taiwan, East Turkistan and Hong Kong.
Signs showing the Beijing Olympic logo were doused in red paint; protesters roped other political matters into the boycott call, such as displaying one sign that read "Beijing lied people died," in reference to an alleged cover-up of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Democracy activist Bill Chu, of Richmond, says Canada needs to boycott the games despite it being disappointing for athletes.
But Chu questions if those with the authority to do so are willing, noting financial self-interest is at play.
"There's certain Canadian self-interest still living in the past hopes of getting business from China," he says.
China will certainly use the games as propaganda, says Chu.
"The CCP has a bad world image; they need anything to lift themselves up. Businessmen, movie stars and, lately, athletes are being threatened. They need anything to tell the world it's OK. It's up to the world to realize not everything is so well," says Chu.
Vancouver is a former Olympic host and typically lights its downtown cauldron to mark the games. Chu says the cauldron should stay dark.
The call to boycott the games gained significant momentum last week when U.S. President Joe Biden said the country was considering it.
Canada has remained less committed to such considerations.
"Canada remains deeply disturbed by the troubling reports of human rights violations in China. To your question, we will continue to discuss this matter with our closest partners," states Minister of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Syrine Khoury.
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) did not respond to Glacier Media for comment. In recent months, it has remained supportive of sending athletes to China.
This year, Canada's House of Commons voted unanimously to declare a genocide is occurring against Uyghur Muslim people at the direction of the CCP.
According to an Angus Reid poll, Canadian opinion of China is at an all-time low following what most Canadians perceive as the arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. A Nanos survey found 75% of Canadian respondents want Huawei banned from its 5G information technology systems.
And even more momentum for a boycott has come this past week following the alleged disappearance of China's top female tennis star Peng Shuai, after she accused a top CCP official of sexual assault on Chinese social media.
Censors scrubbed Peng's post. Since then, state media has shown her at various public places, although the world has not heard from her directly.
The Women's Tennis Association has threatened to pull out of China. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) claims to have spoken to her and posted a photo of an apparent video chat with IOC president Thomas Bach.
The saga has left questions about athletes' safety in Beijing.
"If Olympians don't care about what China's doing in Xinjiang, I guess we can't expect them to worry much about the disappearance of prominent Chinese athlete Peng Shuai. Let the games begin!" wrote David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China, on Twitter.
The IOC, like China, has a big stake in making this all go away," added Mulroney.
The COC did not respond to questions surrounding ensuring athletes' safety while in Beijing.