Calls to boycott Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics grow louder, leaders suspect China of using the games for ‘sportswashing’ human rights abuses

| SamvadaWorld Staff

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called for a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, criticizing China for human rights abuses and saying global leaders who attend would lose their moral authority.

U.S. lawmakers have been increasingly vocal about an Olympic boycott or venue change, and have lashed out at American corporations, arguing their silence about what the State Department has deemed a genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China was abetting the Chinese government.

Pelosi, a Democrat, told a bipartisan congressional hearing on the issue that heads of state around the world should shun the games, scheduled for February.

Republican Congressman Chris Smith, who led the hearing, said corporate sponsors should be called to testify before Congress and be “held to account”. “Big business wants to make lots of money, and it doesn’t seem to matter what cruelty – even genocide – that the host nation commits,” Smith said.

Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern added the Games should be postponed to give the International Olympic Committee time to “relocate to a country whose government is not committing atrocities.”

“If we can postpone an Olympics by a year for a pandemic, we can surely postpone the Olympics for a year for a genocide,” McGovern said, referring to the decision by Japan and the IOC to delay the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo due to COVID-19.

“What I propose – and join those who are proposing – is a diplomatic boycott,” Pelosi said, in which “lead countries of the world withhold their attendance at the Olympics. Let’s not honor the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China,” she added.

“For heads of state to go to China in light of a genocide that is ongoing – while you’re sitting there in your seat – really begs the question, what moral authority do you have to speak again about human rights any place in the world?” she said.

In a non-binding motion in February 2021, the Canadian House of Commons called for the IOC to move the Olympics to a new location.

On 25 February 2021, U.S. Representative John Katko stated that China is “a country that’s engaged in genocide” and called upon the United States to boycott participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

In March 2021, Senator Mitt Romney called for an “economic and diplomatic boycott” of the 2022 Winter Olympics, in which U.S. athletes would still participate, but no American spectators or dignitaries would attend.

Official US response

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it hopes to develop a joint approach with allies to participation in Beijing’s Olympics, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly said the issue has not yet been broached in discussions.

Asked about Pelosi’s comments, a senior administration official told Reuters the administration’s position on the 2022 Olympics had not changed.

Biden, a Democrat, has said China is America’s strategic competitor, and has vowed to not let the country surpass the United States as a world leader on his watch.

Proponents of Americans competing in Beijing’s Olympics say it would be unfair to punish athletes, and the Games would provide a platform for the United States, which has one of the highest Winter Olympic medal counts, to show its vitality on the global stage.

Sarah Hirshland, the chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said in a written statement the committee was concerned about the “oppression of the Uyghur population,” but barring U.S. athletes from the Games was “certainly not the answer.”

“Past Olympic boycotts have failed to achieve political ends,” she said.

UN and Other Countries

Demands for some form of boycott of the Beijing Games are growing. And a coalition of human rights activists on Tuesday called for athletes to boycott the Games and put pressure on the IOC.

In April 2021, Tibetans in exile in Dharamsala, India, protested the holding of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. A U.S. State Department spokesman last month suggested that an Olympic boycott over China’s rights abuses was a possibility.

Critics say that the 2022 Winter Olympics is being used by the Chinese government for the purpose of sportswashing, a practice by which a country uses sporting events to distract from human rights abuses or other issues.

In the aftermath of the 2019 leak of the Xinjiang papers, the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests, China’s hostage diplomacy and the Uyghur genocide, calls were made for a boycott of the 2022 Games. In November 2020 Australian Senators Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick officially proposed a boycott, but their proposal was voted down.

An independent United Nations panel said in 2018 it had received credible reports that at least 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims had been held in camps in China’s Xinjiang region. Beijing describes them as vocational training centers to stamp out extremism, and strongly rejects accusations of abuse and genocide.

China’s Response

Chinese Embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu told Reuters that U.S. attempts to interfere in China’s domestic affairs over the Olympics were doomed to fail.

“I wonder what makes some U.S. politicians think they actually have the so-called ‘moral authority’? On human rights issues, they are in no position, either historically or currently, to make wanton groundless criticism against China,” Liu said.

Chinese experts have said that there is no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party will use the Games for its own propaganda purposes, shoring up its legitimacy at home and abroad.

‘We win! Beijing wins 2022 Winter Olympics bid!” gloated the People’s Daily, a state-controlled newspaper six years ago following the International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote. “The glory belongs to China”, proclaimed the Xinhua News Agency, adding that the people “should always remember July 31 2015, another magnificent moment in Chinese history”.

If the Games go ahead, Beijing will be the first city anywhere to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, a huge propaganda coup for China’s Communist Party (CCP).

(News Source: DD News) 

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