China Invites Vladimir Putin, but Not Joe Biden, to Beijing Winter Olympics

Getty Images
Getty Images

The Kremlin revealed on Friday that Chinese dictator Xi Jinping invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, an occasion marred by China’s ongoing human rights atrocities, including genocide.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed to reporters that Putin “received an invitation” to the Games.

“President Putin has received an invitation to travel to Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games,” Peskov said, according to Russian news agency Tass. “After all details are settled, we will make a statement jointly with our Chinese partners about this visit.”

Peskov did not offer any more details or a confirmation that Putin would attend, though offering future details of a “visit” implied that Putin would accept the invitation.

Putin’s participation would add to attempts by the Chinese state to legitimize the event amid global calls to boycott the Olympics and condemn Beijing for a long list of ongoing human rights atrocities. Atop that list is the genocide of the Uyghur people in East Turkistan, facilitated by the construction of gigantic concentration camps used to torture, sterilize, and enslave Uyghurs and members of other Muslim-majority ethnic groups. Survivors of the camps have testified to these human rights violations; China has responded by claiming the camps are “vocational training centers” and all eyewitnesses of atrocities are actors.

China also faces accusations of building concentration camps to persecute Tibetans and enslaving Uyghurs outside of the camps, sending them to work in factories and farms nationwide. Political dissidents and members of “illegal” religions, such as non-state-sponsored Christianity, accuse China of severe repression including mass disappearances and bulldozing people to death.

Putin’s Russia also faces widespread accusations of human rights violations including religious persecution, silencing of journalists, poisoning of dissidents, and arrests of opponents of the regime.

Xi offered Putin an invite to the event after rumors circulated last week that he would soon extend the same gesture to American President Joe Biden. Corporate media sources in America reported anonymously that Xi would invite Biden to the Olympics during a scheduled virtual meeting that occurred between the two on Monday.

Neither the United States nor China mentioned anything about the Olympics in their summaries of the over three-hour conversation between the two leaders, however, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry explicitly denied that they addressed the topic.

Tibetan and Uyghur activists hold placards and flags during a protest against Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in front of the Olympics Museum in Lausanne on June 23, 2021. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

The White House claimed that Biden addressed the situation in “Xinjiang,” the Chinese Communist Party name for East Turkistan, and other human rights abuses – but did not note that the conversation resulted in any action.

Chinese state media quoted Xi threatening Biden not to support the sovereign nation of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, warning Biden, “whoever plays with fire will get burnt.”

Following Biden’s non-invitation to the Olympics, anonymous White House officials began spreading rumors that Biden would consider a “diplomatic boycott” of the Games. A “diplomatic boycott” is not a boycott – it would simply result in politicians from the United States not enjoying a spectator’s position at the event.

Biden confirmed he was “considering” a non-boycott yesterday.

Biden’s refusal to publicly consider an actual boycott of the Beijing Games is notable especially given that his own administration has formally declared the genocide of the Uyghur people in East Turkistan a “genocide.” Genocide is one of the gravest crimes on the list in international criminal law and is considered jus cogens, or a perfunctory norm, meaning every court in the world has jurisdiction to process genocide suspects. No court has moved at press time to prosecute Xi Jinping for genocide despite several state actors accusing his Communist Party of the crime.

China holds a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, which it uses to applaud its ongoing genocide. China has also used the Human Rights Council to demand an investigation into Canada.

Unlike Biden, Republican members of Congress have demanded not only a full boycott of the Games by the American team, but urged the International Olympic Committee to ban the Chinese team from participating.

“No Olympics should be held in a country whose government is committing genocide,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) wrote to the IOC in October. “Moreover, if the IOC is serious about fidelity to the Olympic Charter, the IOC must then prohibit the PRC [People’s Republic of China] team from participating in the games on account of the flagrant violations of the Olympic Charter committed by the PRC authorities.”

This photograph taken on June 23, 2021 shows a placard representing barber wire shaping and Olympics Rings are seen next to a sign of the Olympics Museum during a protest organised by Tibetan and Uyghur activists against Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Lausanne as some 200 participants took part to the protest. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Human rights groups – including Uyghur groups, Tibetans, Hong Kong pro-democracy groups, and opponents of communism around the world – published a letter in February demanding the IOC cancel the event or relocate it to a free country.

“Anything less” than a global boycott, the letter read, “will be seen as an endorsement of the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian rule and blatant disregard for civil and human rights.”

No state actor has announced such a boycott at press time. No Olympics sponsors have backed out of funding the event.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.