China Threatens Canada with ‘Serious Consequences’ for Vote to Boycott Beijing Olympics

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a summit at the Belt and Road Forum on May 15, 2017 in Beijing, China. The Belt and Road Forum focuses on the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) trade initiative. (Photo by Thomas Peter - Pool/Getty Images)
Thomas Peter/Getty Images

Chinese state media lashed out at the Canadian government on Tuesday, threatening “serious consequences” for the Canadian parliament’s non-binding resolution to declare China’s abuse of the Uyghur Muslims as “genocide.”

The Chinese further sought to bully Canada out of boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The Canadian House of Commons voted 266 to 0 to declare that China’s treatment of the Uyghurs is genocide. Lawmakers also passed an amendment that called on the Canadian government to ask the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to relocate the 2022 Winter Olympics away from Beijing if “the Chinese government continues on this genocide.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and some members of his government Liberal Party abstained from the vote. Trudeau has been extremely reluctant to antagonize the Chinese by applying the “genocide” label to their actions in Xinjiang province, having presided over years of souring relations between Canada and China – in large part because the Canadians detained Chinese Communist Party royalty and Huawei corporate executive Meng Wanzhou to face charges of fraud in the United States.

Both current U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, have used the term “genocide” to denounce China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, but President Joe Biden has been notably reluctant to follow suit.

A Canadian coalition called “Move the 2022 Olympic Games” issued a statement on Tuesday, signed by 41 organizations and nearly 150 individuals, which threatened to boycott the Winter Olympics if they are not moved away from Beijing. The coalition said many other potential signatories were afraid to publicly support the petition because they feared reprisals against relatives in China.

“An Olympics in Beijing will force our athletes to be the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) propaganda tools for garnering moral glory of being the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, lending their hard-earned professional credibility to help whitewashing the bloody record of human rights violations and further empowering the dictatorial might of CCP domestically and internationally. Must our athletes swallow that?” the statement asked.

Canada’s National Post quoted members of the Canadian Olympic Committee and experts on the Games who said relocating the Winter Olympics on such short notice would be all but impossible, especially if the sponsors do not support the effort – and given China’s immense economic leverage over Western corporations, few of them would. Olympic historian David Wallechinsky alternatively suggested world leaders should refuse to attend the 2022 Games in Beijing to protest China’s human rights abuses.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials and media erupted in outrage at the Canadian parliament’s vote to condemn the Uyghur genocide. China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, said the House of Commons motion constituted unacceptable interference in China’s “domestic affairs.”

“We firmly oppose that because it runs counter to facts. There’s nothing like genocide happening in Xinjiang at all,” he insisted.

“Facts have proven that there has never been genocide in Xinjiang. This is a pure lie concocted by anti-China forces, a ridiculous farce to smear China. Some Canadian politicians’ blatant politicization of sport violates the spirit of the Olympic Movement and harms the interests of their athletes,” fumed Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, as quoted by the state-run Global Times on Tuesday.

The Global Times blustered that Western politicians and corporate leaders would never risk the “serious consequences” they would face for boycotting the Beijing Olympics, dismissing such demands as an “old trick” and “political stunt to specifically attack countries who pursue different paths from the West.”

The usual CCP “experts” were trotted out by the Global Times to denounce criticism of Beijing’s human rights abuses as sheer folly and predict a boycott would only damage and humiliate the boycotters:

Lü Xiang, an expert on international relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday, “Anti-China conservative Western politicians need to understand that they have no right to decide where to hold the Olympics. They just arrogantly believe they can represent the international community.”

The motion passed by the Canadian parliament is non-binding, so the Trudeau administration needs to avoid being stupid. Canada’s anti-China politicians just played the same trick as Mike Pompeo (former US secretary of state in the Trump administration). It is “big lie” diplomacy, Lü said.

To groundlessly accuse China of “genocide” will never become a legitimate excuse for the boycott and would only make those who support the boycott more isolated, Lü said.

After fulminating at great length about how all the eyewitness reports of concentration camps, forced sterilization, and slave labor in Xinjiang province are “lies,” and the province is actually “prosperous, stable, and harmonious,” the Global Times said the West is only interested in slandering China to keep it from assuming its rightful place as a top global power.

“Looking back at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China and the Olympics had made each other better. The 2008 Games presents a democratic, open, civilized, friendly, and confident China to the world, and China had emerged as a key player in international affairs, and particularly as a major presence on the global market,” the CCP paper claimed, unwittingly making the exact case Move the 2022 Olympic Games and other activists are using to demand the relocation or boycott of next year’s winter event.

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