China’s state-run Global Times propaganda newspaper threatened other states considering a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics with “fierce” retaliation on the part of the Communist Party in a column published Sunday.
Over 150 human rights groups around the world launched a campaign last week urging countries to boycott the Olympics in recognition of the horrific human rights atrocities the Chinese Communist Party is committing against its citizens, particularly members of ethnic minorities subject to rape, slavery, and extreme torture in concentration camps. The groups also noted the repression of Tibetan and Mongolian ethnic minorities outside of Xinjiang, where most of the nation’s concentration camps are located, and the increasingly violent state repression against pro-democracy dissidents in Hong Kong.
No foreign government has yet to declare they will boycott the 2022 games. Legislators in the United States and the United Kingdom have launched campaigns to pressure their governments to make a statement in favor of human rights, however, by withdrawing from the event.
Should the 2022 Olympic Games go forward, Beijing would become the first city in history to host both Summer and Winter games; Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In response to news that some countries were considering responding to the call to boycott the Games, the Global Times, in an editorial, asserted, “China is a sporting and economic power with growing political influence.”
“If any country is encouraged by extremist forces to take concrete actions to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, China will definitely retaliate fiercely. China certainly has the resources and means to do that,” the editorial warned.
The editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Hu Xijin, independently issued his own, milder threat against any state considering a boycott.
“China will seriously sanction any country that follows such a call,” Hu claimed.
China has previously attempted to silence opponents with sanctions, most recently issuing personal sanctions against members of the former Trump administration, most prominently former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, after Pompeo issued a formal declaration that China’s concentration camps and systematic sterilizing of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang constituted a genocide. The sanctions ban those affected from traveling to China or doing business with the Communist Party, activities they were unlikely to take part in, anyway.
The column went on to argue that supporting China’s hosting bid was part of the “defensive war” against the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, which began in Wuhan, central China, in 2019. The 2020 Summer Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan, have already been postponed and are expected to take place in July.
“If the Tokyo Games were finally forced to be canceled, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games will become a defensive war of the Olympics against the pandemic,” the Global Times claimed, describing boycott calls as “an evil trend” that the world should “despise.”
While feeling the need to issue unspecified threats against foreign powers on behalf of its government, the Global Times claimed that the boycott movement had no real chance of success, which raised the question of why the threats are necessary.
“We are convinced, however, that such extreme claims, which are grossly contrary to the Olympic spirit, will never be widely echoed,” the editorial board claimed. “A few activist groups and Western politicians have always tried to make a fuss about their presence ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics. None of the IOC [International Olympic Commission], national athletes, or people at large will be willing to be held hostage by this small group of forces. Their plot will never succeed.”
The editorial board went on to dismiss human rights activists as “just a band of disordered people” and alleged that prior Olympics boycotts — specifically the 1980 boycott of the Soviet Union as a host — were unmitigated failures.
Over 150 human rights groups around the world — largely consisting of Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Hong Kong advocacy groups — urged the world to boycott the Games last week. In an open letter to world leaders, the groups noted extensive evidence that Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghur people, targeting ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz people in the process who live in the same region of the country. In occupied Tibet, Chinese officials have banned the indigenous Tibetan language and attempted to replace it with Mandarin, the Chinese dialect common to Han Chinese people in the northeast. Inner Mongolians have protested similar measures to eradicate their native language and culture.
A BBC report published last week, citing multiple on-the-record eyewitnesses who escaped China’s concentration camps, revealed the government there promotes the systematic, nightly rape of those imprisoned in the camps. Chinese government officials torture women by using electric batons to rape them.
Human rights groups warned state actors that a boycott was a clear way to “ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent.”
“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.”
The IOC has yet to issue any definitive statements on the human rights scandal. On the contrary, IOC President Thomas Bach issued a statement last week, eagerly promoted by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, assuring the world that his organization had the utmost trust in the Party’s ability to host the Games.
“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 asserted. “This is why, we can say already now with great confidence: China is ready. Ready to welcome the world’s best winter sports athletes for unforgettable Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. We all are looking forward to this global celebration of sport.”
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has indicated it will not boycott the Beijing Olympics.
“We’re not currently talking about changing our posture or our plans as it relates to the Beijing Olympics,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week.