American figure skater Timothy LeDuc condemned China’s “horrifying human rights abuses” in remarks shortly after qualifying to participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics this weekend, admitting to feeling “powerless” about the situation amid calls to boycott the prestigious event.
LeDuc qualified on Sunday to participate in the figure skating pairs competition with partner Ashley Cain-Gribble, winning their contest at the U.S. Figure Skating Competition and cementing a place on the Olympic team. LeDuc is the first openly gay athlete to win the American pairs title and the first Olympian to identify as “non-binary,” requesting the use of the pronoun “they” when addressed.
Human rights activists and members of communities oppressed by the Chinese Communist Party have urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for over a year to reconsider granting hosting honors to China. Among the complaints against China are the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs in East Turkistan, the cultural genocides in Tibet and Southern Mongolia, the repression of people of faith who attempt to worship at home, the crackdown on pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong, and generalized violence against anyone suspected of disagreeing with the Communist Party.
The Uyghur Tribunal, an independent legal organization tasked with studying evidence of genocide in East Turkistan, ruled in December that China was “beyond a reasonable doubt” guilty of the crime, citing evidence of the use of concentration camps to exterminate Uyghur people and widespread forced sterilization, abortion, and infanticide. Both the administrations of Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden have declared the acts against the Uyghur people a genocide.
LeDuc told reporters on Sunday that he actively affirmed his belief that China is engaging in “horrific” human rights crimes.
“What I can say is we absolutely acknowledge the horrifying things that we’ve seen happening to the Uyghurs. I read somewhere the other day that it’s the largest number of people held in internment and labor camps since World War II,” LeDuc said. “I mean, these are horrifying human rights abuses that we’re seeing happening. And it can feel very powerless when you read those things, because you think, ‘What can I do?'”
The Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly dismissed criticism of the country hosting the Olympics as a niche conspiracy by right-wing “extremists” seeking to defame China. LeDuc soundly fails to fit that description, however, as both the first opnely non-binary Olympian and the supporter of several prominent socialist causes, as he detailed during the same remarks condemning the Uyghur genocide.
“I think we’re all probably people that believe human rights are for everyone. We all should have access to the same rights,” LeDuc continued. “So I see human rights being violated here, in my country. I see trans people fighting for human rights. I believe that healthcare is a human right, and I see access to healthcare being denied. I believe abortion is healthcare, and access to abortion is a human right.”
There's a reason why the world is uniting to boycott the Communist Chinese Genocide Olympics. https://t.co/cUBW8wl5Vn
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) August 31, 2021
LeDuc went on to say that “those rights” were “under attack” in America and that situation was something “we have control” of by voting, as opposed to the situation in China.
LeDuc concluded that this did not mean that using a public platform to defend human rights in China was necessarily impossible.
“So often, state and local governments are the ones who are restricting those rights, and we all have a responsibility and the ability to vote in those elections, and elect people who are going to protect those human rights,” LeDuc said. “So that’s kind of how I think of it. I feel powerless sometimes, seeing the situation in China. I can use my voice here, yes. But what I can do here to defend human rights is be sure that I am vigilant and vote for the people in my local communities and state and local elections to defend human rights here as well.”
Defenders of participating in the Beijing Olympics – which include prominent Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former President Trump – suggest that not sending athletes into a volatile political situation (and increasingly dangerous coronavirus outbreak) would somehow “punish” those athletes. Statements like LeDuc’s, and those of a growing number of Olympians, suggest that the IOC’s intransigence in keeping the Games in a rogue state is its own form of punishment.
“I’m really disgusted. I don’t even want to be called an Olympian anymore,” retired Canadian two-time Olympic snowboarder Drew Neilson said in December, referring to the Beijing Olympics. “It just boggles my mind that people can look away from what’s going on in China, just so they can watch people play games for little pieces of metal.”
Members of oppressed groups met with Olympians training in Minnesota this weekend to share a letter explaining their opposition to the Beijing Games. Some athletes took photos with the activists, most prominently snowboard champion Shaun White posing with a Tibetan flag. While no athletes offered statements, their mere presence in the same room as anti-communist activists may compromise their safety in Beijing and serves as defiance to both the Communist Party and the IOC.
In White’s case, for example, possessing a Tibetan flag in any capacity is a crime in China that he may face charges for.
The Genocide Games Task Force, a coalition of anti-communist and human rights organizations, launched a letter-writing and petition campaign this week urging athletes to reconsider participation in the Games, particularly on the grounds of potential dangers facing athletes upon arriving in the country.