Human Rights Activists Urge Biden to Join Boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics

A security person stands near the Olympic flags during a ceremony to mark the arrival of t
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

A coalition of human rights advocates representing groups repressed by the Chinese Communist Party — including members of the Tibetan, Uyghur, Inner Mongolian, and Hong Kong communities — issued a call Thursday for the world to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, set to take place in Beijing.

The groups urged the government of the United States, in particular, to join the boycott, as the world’s leading nation, in the name of those currently suffering human rights atrocities at the hands of the government hosting the games.

Beijing, dominated by the ethnic Han Chinese majority, is implementing policies the administrations of both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden have deemed genocidal against the Uyghur people, the majority of whom live in western Xinjiang, China. The Communist Party has built hundreds of concentration camps for Uyghur and other majority-Muslim communities in the region, systematically sterilized women in the community, and stands accused of harvesting bodies of political prisoners to sell their organs. A report published by the BBC this week, citing eyewitnesses and victims who went on the record, described extremely gruesome torture used against Uyghur women, particularly the implementation of systematic gang rape in the concentration camps and the rape of women using electric instruments as a form of electroshock torture.

The Communist Party has also implemented a labor camp policy in occupied Tibet, in addition to enforcing the use of the Han Mandarin language, which is not native to Tibet, and attempting to control the leadership of the majority religion there, Tibetan Buddhism. Similarly, Beijing has implemented a policy of language and cultural erasure in Inner Mongolia, which has triggered widespread protests and corresponding state violence.

In Hong Kong, the Communist Party illegally imposed a “national security” law last year that allows it to imprison political dissidents for a minimum of ten years if found guilty of crimes such as “subversion of state power.”

A coalition of 150 groups representing these communities and human rights activists generally issued an open call on Tuesday to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing to “ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent.”

Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008, which the groups note preceded the outrageous abuses now taking place in the country.

“The IOC [International Olympic Committee] refused to listen in 2008, defending its decision with claims that they would prove to be a catalyst for improved human rights,” the groups’ statement read. “As human rights experts predicted, this decision proved to be hugely misplaced; not only did China’s human rights record not improve, but violations increased substantially without rebuke.”

“Now, in 2021, we find ourselves back in the same position with the IOC who are refusing to act despite the clear evidence of genocide and widespread and worsening human rights failures,” the letter continued. Given the inaction on the part of Olympics officials, the group urged sovereign states to act, concluding, “anything less will be seen as an endorsement of the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian rule and blatant disregard for civil and human rights.”

At a press conference Thursday in Tokyo, a year from the day the Winter Olympics are scheduled to start, the group reiterated the need for collective international rejection of China’s human rights atrocities. Hidetoshi Ishii — vice president of the Free Indo-Pacific Alliance, one of the groups in the coalition — emphasized that support from Washington would send a strong message that China’s abuses are unacceptable.

“This is not something that only Japan can do, so we want the international community to act together. We want the new Biden administration to join us,” Ishii said, according to Reuters.

As Reuters noted, no evidence suggests that Biden would support such a boycott. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki explicitly rejected the idea this week.

The Chinese Communist Party responded to the letter on Wednesday, disparaging the activists as “irresponsible” for reminding the world of China’s dire human rights record.

“As we said before, Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics will be another significant contribution China makes to the Olympic Movement. All winter games lovers are looking forward to taking part in Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during his regular briefing Wednesday. “All preparation work for the games are well underway, which have won full recognition from the international community including the IOC. We are fully confident that the Beijing Winter Olympics will be a splendid event.”

“In the meantime, I must point out that it is highly irresponsible for some parties to try to disrupt, intervene and sabotage the preparation and holding of Beijing Winter Olympic Games to serve their political interests,” he concluded. “Such actions will not be supported by the international community and will never succeed.”

The president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, did not indicate in his message to mark one year until the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics that he was aware of any widespread calls for a boycott.

“Having seen how China is overcoming the coronavirus crisis, we are very confident that our Chinese hosts will ensure safe and secure Olympic Games in full cooperation with the IOC,” Bach said in his message, disregarding the widespread coronavirus outbreaks currently plaguing the country, including in Beijing. “Every time that I have visited China, I am so impressed by the enthusiasm and support for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. This is why, we can say already now with great confidence: China is ready.”

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