Let’s Boycott the Genocide Games in Beijing

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Three days ago the Olympic Games in Tokyo ended, with athletes celebrating their medals and nursing their losses. Now, all eyes turn to the next Olympics—the Winter Games next year—and increasingly the question of the legitimacy of the host city: Beijing.

It is extremely rare for two successive host cities for the Games—Summer and Winter—to have their credentials questioned, though for two entirely different reasons. Tokyo’s ability to host the Olympics was held in doubt by some not because of any wrongdoing by Japan, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed it was postponed by a year, and earlier this year speculation grew that the Games could be canceled. In the end, Tokyo went ahead, and—despite pandemic complications—proved a success.

In contrast, the questions surrounding Beijing 2022 are far more profound. COVID-19 is a consideration, given that the virus emerged first in China and turned into a pandemic in large part as a consequence of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) cover-up and lies. Instead of suppressing the virus, the regime initially suppressed the truth, threatening, intimidating and disappearing whistleblowers, including doctors and citizen journalists who tried to warn the world. Instead of alerting the World Health Organization (WHO) immediately, the CCP delayed and denied. And instead of allowing a transparent inquiry into the origins of the virus, the regime has refused to co-operate and launched a trade war against those, like Australia, which called for an investigation. So on public health grounds alone, does Beijing deserve to host the Winter Games?

But the moral illegitimacy of Beijing 2022 goes much deeper than public health and logistics. This is a regime that increasingly stands accused of the worst crimes under international law—genocide and crimes against humanity—and flagrant violations of international treaties. Is this a regime that deserves the prestige of hosting the Winter Olympics?

Both the previous and current U.S. administrations, the Canadian, Dutch, Lithuanian, Belgian, Czech, and British parliaments, and a growing number of international legal experts and scholars now conclude that the Uyghurs are facing genocide. An independent tribunal chaired by the man who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic, British lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice, is assessing this claim and will publish its judgment toward the end of the year, but in its public hearings, truly harrowing evidence has already been presented. Beijing 2022 is increasingly becoming known as the #GenocideGames.

A previous independent tribunal also chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice concluded beyond doubt that forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China has occurred, and continues, on a widespread scale. The China Tribunal’s judgment in 2019 argued that this amounts to crimes against humanity and that anyone engaging with the Chinese regime must be made aware that they are dealing with a “criminal state.”

Xi Jinping’s regime has completely destroyed Hong Kong’s promised freedoms, democracy, the rule of law and autonomy over the past year, in total and repeated breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a treaty registered at the United Nations. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says China is in “a state of ongoing non-compliance”—an understated diplomatic euphemism to mean that Beijing has torn up and trampled on an international treaty.

Boycott China
Activists, including members of the local Hong Kong, Tibetan, and Uyghur communities, hold up banners and placards calling on the Australian government to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics over China’s human rights record, in Melbourne, Australia on June 23, 2021. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

On top of all this, there is the continuing repression in Tibet, the worst persecution of Christians since the Cultural Revolution, ongoing assaults on Falun Gong practitioners, the crackdown on civil society, human rights defenders, citizen journalists, bloggers, and dissidents throughout China, as well as the CCP’s increasing aggression toward its critics well beyond its borders. Should a regime whose leader threatens overseas critics with having “their heads bashed bloody against a Great Wall of Steel” if they dare to oppose the CCP be rewarded with the Winter Olympics?

The case against Beijing 2022 is clear. The question is what do we do about it?

Ideally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should move the Games, even at the eleventh hour, from Beijing to another city capable of hosting at short notice. There are plenty of candidates with experience and facilities for hosting winter sports—Canada, parts of the United States, various parts of Scandinavia, and Switzerland are just a few. If the IOC had the political will, it could be done.

Unfortunately, the IOC seems to already be too far into Beijing’s pocket to budge. It has already tied itself to China’s line on Taiwan, for example, insisting on describing Taiwanese athletes as representing “Chinese Taipei” and refusing to play the Taiwanese national anthem or display Taiwan’s flag at medal ceremonies.

When Chinese athletes wore Chairman Mao badges in Tokyo, the IOC did warn them that their gesture could be a breach of the Olympic Charter, which bans political statements, but we should not hold our breath for any disciplinary action to be taken.

Assuming, therefore, that the IOC does not respond to pressure to move the 2022 Games, what then? Surely what is needed is as full, coordinated, and comprehensive a boycott as possible.

At an absolute minimum, there must be a diplomatic boycott. No foreign government representatives, diplomats, ministers, royalty, or dignitaries should attend. Of course, there will be those who won’t sign up for this, but if as many like-minded countries as possible co-ordinate this effort, it will make a difference. Beijing hates being snubbed, and loathes being embarrassed. When the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, over 60 countries followed suit. Let’s try the same approach with Beijing.

But we should do more. We need a consumer boycott. Spectators should not go to Beijing, and should put pressure on corporate sponsors to withdraw. Consumers should boycott those companies that still have their logos on the stands in the Beijing Games.

And, if the Games go ahead, we should use the platform it gives us to generate maximum attention on China’s human rights violations. Talk about the Uyghur genocide, Tibet, Hong Kong, religious persecution, torture, forced organ harvesting, disappearances, the surveillance state, and the increasingly totalitarian nature of the CCP at every opportunity on the airwaves. Turn Beijing 2022 from a propaganda victory for the CCP into a publicity coup for the cause of freedom and human dignity.

As to the athletes, I leave it to them to wrestle with their consciences. I know that competing in the Olympics is every sportsman’s dream, and they will have spent years training for it. It’s not for me to tell them whether or not to compete. But if they do compete they should do so with their eyes and ears wide open, and should use the opportunity they have—on the ground, if they’re brave enough, or immediately upon departure from Beijing—to highlight the brutality and criminality of China’s barbaric dictatorship.

One thing we can be sure about is that if brave sports men and women from other dictatorial states take a stand in Beijing the way Belarusian sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya did in Tokyo, against their own regimes, they’re unlikely to receive the protection they found in Japan. That in itself could put quite a few off from participating.

Some argue that boycotts don’t work. I disagree. History shows they play an important role. And at the very least what is certain is that if Beijing 2022 goes ahead unchallenged, the regime will be emboldened, behave with even more repression at home and aggression abroad, and ultimately it won’t only be the peoples of China whose rights we will have failed to defend, but our own freedoms at stake as well.

So let’s work now to turn Beijing 2022 into a nightmare for Xi Jinping and a light in the darkness for those suffering under his regime. Let’s boycott the Genocide Games.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Benedict Rogers

Benedict Rogers is co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch.

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