The East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE), which represents the majority-Uyghur population of the occupied region in China, asked spectators to forego watching the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics when they begin next week in solidarity with the victims of Chinese genocide.
East Turkistan, which the Chinese Communist Party refers to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), is home to a system of hundreds of concentration camps used to enslave millions of Uyghurs and other members of Muslim-majority ethnicities, run by the Party since at least 2017. At their peak, estimates suggested as many as 3 million people were trapped in the camps.
Outside of the concentration camps, the Chinese government has turned East Turkistan into what is functionally an open-air prison, using sophisticated surveillance technology to monitor citizens and force the erasure of Islam and local identity through the destruction of mosques, ancient cemeteries, and other cultural sites. Adding insult to injury, Chinese officials have replaced holy sites with things such as hotels and public toilets.
Uyghurs Urge Boycott: Stop Watching Beijing's Genocide Games – OpEdhttps://t.co/7yr8qe3Mgx
With the Beijing Olympics (Genocide Games) coming up next week, the East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) is calling on the public to boycott watching the Beijing Olympics in prote… pic.twitter.com/NGBX8Xbds4
— Eurasia Review (@EurasiaReview) January 28, 2022
Multiple governments, including that of the United States, have formally accused China of genocide against the Uyghur people.
Beijing is hosting the Winter Olympics this year, expected to begin on February 4. Communities persecuted by the Communist Party – which include the Uyghurs but a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups nationwide – spent years attempting to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to grant China the honor of being an Olympic host city a second time. Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, immediately preceding the 2009 Urumqi Uyghur massacre and construction of the East Turkistan concentration camp system. The IOC has ignored all criticism of China and supported the Communist Party in its hosting duties.
Dr. Mamtimin Ala, the European Union representative for the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile, observed in a statement on Thursday that the IOC, along with most Olympics sponsors, have ignored objections of those who say that elevating the Chinese government with the honor of hosting the Games essentially endorses its human rights crimes. To that end, the organization is urging Americans not to watch the Olympics as a sign of rejection of those abuses.
“Many groups including Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers, and even American and European organizations have asked the IOC to cancel the Genocide Games. The IOC said no, so we asked governments to boycott the Olympics fully, and they also said no,” Ala said in a statement. “We also pleaded with athletes not to go, and they ignored us. So we now plead with the public not to watch the games to make this the least-watched Olympics in history.”
The Olympics were a titanic investment for NBC, which paid $7.75 billion in 2014 for exclusive rights to broadcast every Olympic event in America through 2032. At the time, Beijing had not yet won hosting duties for the 2022 Games, which it received handily after its only competition to host was Almaty, Kazakhstan.
That investment had already shown signs of failing to pay off last year, when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, taking place a year later due to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, hit multiple record ratings lows.
“We had a little bit of bad luck,” CEO of NBC Jeff Shell said on a call last year. “There was a drumbeat of negativity, we got moved a year, no spectators. And that has resulted in a little bit of linear ratings being probably less than we expected.”
That “drumbeat of negativity” has swelled into a roar in opposition to China’s human rights crimes. Among several international events calling for a boycott to the Games, protesters surrounded Rockefeller Center this month demanding NBC not broadcast the event at all.
“We are demanding the International [Olympic] Committee relocate the venue at any cost, as the chosen venue is undeserving,” Ngawang Tashi, the vice president of the U.S. Tibet Committee, one of the groups participating in the protests in New York told Breitbart News at the time. The protesters, he added, would also “demand the people of the world and leaders of the world to boycott this Winter Olympics in Beijing. We will continue to fight for our rights and will boycott the 2022 Olympic Games.”
A group of 234 international organizations – including Uyghur and Tibetan groups as well as more generalized human rights organizations such as Freedom House and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation – organized a call this week for athletes, sponsors, and viewers to boycott the event.
“The groups urged governments to join a diplomatic boycott of the Games, slated to begin February 4, 2022, and for athletes and sponsors not to legitimize government abuses,” Human Rights Watch explained in a call to action this week.
Only one government in the world, North Korea, has announced it would boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics. North Korea is one of China’s most loyal allies and announced a “boycott” to protest alleged abuses by the United States. The IOC banned North Korea from the 2022 Games, so the boycott announcement was only symbolic.