Lawmakers Urge Boycott of Chinese ‘Genocide Olympics,’ Pelosi Calls for Diplomatic Boycott

Supporters and members of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement rally outside the White House to urge the United States to end trade deals with China and take action to stop the oppression of the Uyghur and other Turkic peoples August 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During a virtual House hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, panelists and lawmakers urged a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing egregious human rights abuses, including forcing religious minorities to live in what are essentially concentration camps.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who co-chairs the commission with Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), laid out the case for boycotting what he called the “genocide Olympics.”

“Chinese authorities initially denied the existence of mass internment camps and have tried to portray them as vocational training centers,” Smith said. “Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) employed lies, censorship and economic coercion to stifle discussion of their crimes.

“But documents obtained by the New York Times and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists exposed the brutality behind Beijing’s plans to radically and coercively transform the culture and religion of ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in China.

“In granting Beijing host status for the Olympic Game, we are crowning a barbarous regime with laurels while we should be condemning their abuse and genocide,” Smith said. “The UN Genocide Convention says a  government committing genocide should be ‘punished.’

“In light of what is now known—and in solidarity with the oppressed and not the oppressor, in solidarity with the victims and not the victimizer—I urge the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and all interested parties, including the United States, to find a new host city—or boycott.

“To our big corporations, don’t enable or sponsor the genocide Olympics,” Smith said.

And while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) didn’t go so far as backing a complete pull-out from the Games, she said at the very least heads of states should not attend.

“Here’s what I propose — and joining those proposing it — is a diplomatic boycott,” Pelosi said at the hearing. “I don’t know that it’s possible, because we have not succeeded in the past.”

Pelosi said she is a “big sports fan” who had lost sleep to watch past Olympic Games in different time zones. But she said not attending the games doesn’t mean athletes have to be slighted. 

“Let’s honor them at home,” Pelosi said. “Let’s not honor the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China to show their support for their athletes. When they come home let’s show them even more.

“But for heads of state to go to China in light of the genocide that is ongoing while you’re sitting there in your seats, it really begs the question: What moral authority do you have to speak about human rights any place in the world if you’re willing to pay your respects to the Chinese government as it commits genocide.

“Let’s have a diplomatic boycott if, in fact, this Olympics takes place,” Pelosi said. “Silence on this issue is unacceptable. It enables China’s abuses.”

Panelist Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, which fights for the rights of the unborn in China where forced and sex-selective abortions have killed millions upon millions, not only called for the Games to be boycotted but said other action should be taken, including banning China from participating in the Olympics.

“South Africa was banned from the Olympics in 1964 to 1988 because of its practice of apartheid,” Littlejohn said in her prepared remarks. “Likewise, the International Olympic Committee should express the disapproval of the CCP’s genocide and other crimes against humanity by banning China from the Olympics.”

Littlejohn called the Chinese Communist Party a “transnational criminal organization” and that it should be treated as such.

Littlejohn concluded her remarks by saying holding the Games in China would do a disservice to the spirit of the Olympics and athletes.

“The 2020 Olympic Charter states, ‘The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.’” 

“Honoring arguably the greatest human rights abuser in the world with the privilege of hosting the Olympics runs directly counter to the Olympic Charter,” Littlejohn said. “Holding the Games in Beijing does a tremendous disservice to athletes, as well as to those suffering under the totalitarian fist of the CCP. The least we can do is move or boycott the Olympics.”

Others panelists at the hearing included:

  • Dr. Yang Jianli, Founder and President, Citizen Power Initiatives for China
  • Susan V. Lawrence, Specialist in Asian Affairs, Congressional Research Service
  • Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch
  • Rayhan Asat, Human Rights Lawyer and Advocate
  • Samuel Chu, Managing Director, Hong Kong Democracy Council

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