The CEO of Open Doors USA, a human rights organization that focuses on lending aid to persecuted Christians around the world, urged corporate sponsors of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to reconsider their ties to the event.
The Beijing Olympics, set to begin on February 4, have prompted outrage throughout the human rights community due to the extensive evidence of extreme atrocities committed against ethnic and religious minorities, political dissidents, human rights attorneys, and other vulnerable populations in China at the moment. The American government, under both President Joe Biden and predecessor Donald Trump, has accused China of committing genocide against at least one of those populations: the ethnic Uyghur people of western East Turkestan, which China refers to as its Xinjiang province.
China stands accused of killing, torturing, and enslaving members of the Uyghur population and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang. Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners have also all accused the Communist Party of imprisoning and torturing them for their faith, as well as erasing even legal religious institutions on dubious grounds, including shutting down religious services in the name of preventing the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. The imprisonment and disappearance of human rights lawyers for defending members of these communities is also a widely documented phenomenon in the country.
The international community considers hosting the Olympic Games a great honor, offered to nations in the spirit of “excellence, friendship, and respect,” the core values of “Olympism,” according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,” the IOC website explains.
The IOC itself has not made any indication it is considering relocating the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing, nor has it made any significant effort to reconcile the core values of Olympism, particularly “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,” and the host nation’s ongoing genocide of multiple ethnic groups.
Also largely failing to address the genocide are the event’s corporate sponsors, including Coca-Cola, AirBnb, General Electric, Visa, Intel, Proctor & Gamble, and Toyota. Many of these corporations have embraced the doctrine of corporate social responsibility, which instructs profitable corporations to use their influence for ethical and philanthropic purposes, and have issued official statements weighing in on social and political issues.
David Curry, the CEO of Open Doors USA, told Breitbart News in a statement that these sponsors, as well as the IOC itself, should weigh the gravity of China’s human rights crimes when considering their role in the Winter Olympics.
“China’s communist government is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights,” Curry said. “In addition to imprisoning at least one million ethnic and religious Uyghurs, the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] is making faith unwelcome by surveilling and censoring millions of Christians and other religious minorities.”
“The international community has a rare opportunity to send a strong signal that China’s rights abuses are unacceptable,” he continued. “The International Olympic Committee should re-evaluate its role in rewarding the CCP’s bad behavior with the 2022 Games, and corporate sponsors should consider withdrawing their support.”
In addition to sending aid to persecuted Christians around the world, Open Doors advocates for their rights through monitoring repression of Christians around the world. The group publishes an annual World Watch List ranking the countries where it is most dangerous to be Christian; China ranked 17 in 2021, moving up six places from 2020 and 26 spots in three years.
“Thousands of churches have been damaged or destroyed, some confiscated, in a campaign that has spread to almost every region of the country,” Open Doors noted in its World Watch List profile of China. “Crosses have also been removed from churches.”
The group also accused China of using the Chinese coronavirus pandemic to shut down religious services “even after it was no longer necessary for health reasons.”
The Beijing Olympic Games at press time do not appear threatened by any significant moves on the part of corporate sponsors. Several of these companies testified to the U.S. Congress in July regarding their positions; all but one of the five summoned refused to describe the Uyghur genocide as a genocide.
Coca-Cola, Visa, Intel, Airbnb, and Procter & Gamble sent representatives to address the situation to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), a bipartisan committee consisting of both Congressmen and Senators. A representative for Intel, executive Steve Rodgers, told the CECC that he considered the acts against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in China a genocide, just as the Biden and Trump administrations had.
“Other executives said they respected the U.S. government’s conclusions, but would not weigh in on the matter,” according to Reuters.
Coca-Cola’s representative, global vice president for human rights Paul Lalli, insisted that the company merely supports athletes participating in the program.
“We support and follow the athletes wherever they compete,” he insisted.
Visa’s representative similarly emphasized, “sponsors like Visa have no say in the countries selected by the IOC to host the Games. It has been that way for the entirety of our 35-year partnership and remains that way today.”
The Chinese government, through its state media arms, has largely dismissed calls for a boycott as an “unnecessary distraction for athletes” and a violation of the “Olympic spirit.” The Chinese state outlet Global Times also explicitly threatened companies contemplating disassociating from the games over China’s genocide, warning “they could face serious consequences in the Chinese market.”