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President Joe Biden has said the U.S. is considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China. His administration should stop considering this and make it a reality.
With the games just a couple months away, and with political leaders suggesting this kind of action for a while, it’s time for the U.S. government to make this strong statement against the Chinese Communist Party’s documented human rights abuses, glaring authoritarianism and failure to engage as a good-faith partner with the international community on issues such as the origin of COVID-19.
At a certain point, a country has violated too many international norms to be treated normally by the global community. We’re past that point with China. The U.S. should lead, and bring other countries along with it, by not sending a delegation of government officials for the winter games.
To be clear, this would not be an all-out boycott from American officials and athletes. The athletes would still attend, so that their years of preparation and training would not be wasted. A full boycott would be unfair to them, and penalize American athletes for the Chinese government’s actions. Instead, a diplomatic boycott would involve keeping top government officials home rather than having them travel to China and help the Chinese government project normalcy on the world stage, as if it hasn’t been committing acts of genocide against the Uyghur minority population.
And make no mistake, “acts of genocide” is exactly what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said China has committed against the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority group, in the region of Xinjiang. Similar rebukes of the Chinese government’s treatment of minority groups have come from around the world, including from 50 independent United Nations human rights experts and a group of 39 mostly western nations.
“The Olympic Torch is supposed to represent peace and hope, but for our people who are living under the brutal Chinese Communist Party this represents global complicity in China’s extreme repression,” Zumretay Arkin, the program and advocacy manager of the World Uyghur Congress, said recently, as reported by Reuters.
It is no great stretch for activists to call these 2022 Winter Oympics the “Genocide Games” when U.S. officials say the Chinese government has committed acts of genocide against the Uyghurs. And it should be no great stretch for the U.S. to withhold the diplomatic legitimacy it extends to an Olympic host nation by sending dignitaries to the games. China should not be treated like any other host nation, not right now.
The Chinese government may be able to suppress evidence and mention of their actions domestically, with an authoritarian grip on information within China, but it cannot ultimately hide these actions from the rest of the world. Now is not the time for the U.S. government to ignore the abuses the world can see plainly, even when obscured somewhat by initial denials that became deflections; now is the time to lead other nations in recognizing that what the world sees from China is unacceptable.
The world received another reminder of how the Chinese Communist Party treats dissent and inconvenient speech recently, with the hopefully improving saga of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. After she accused a powerful former Communist Party official of sexual assault, she and her allegations were scrubbed from state-controlled social media and she seemed to go missing for several weeks. She thankfully re-emerged after pressure from the international community, but some officials rightly remain concerned about her well-being and whether her allegations will be addressed. Now is not the time to ease up on the pressure.
There shouldn’t be much left to consider. The U.S. should move forward with a diplomatic boycott of these winter games.