Wider than the usual coalition religious freedom and human rights groups praise the Biden administration’s announcement on December 6 that the United States will not send a diplomatic delegation to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Although a complete boycott has been halted, the lack of any official US government presence at the Beijing Games is expected to send a signal that the US government believes the People’s Republic of China is guilty of heinous human rights abuses and religious persecution, including genocide.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom quickly praised President Joe Biden for the diplomatic boycott – just two weeks after the International Group on Religious Freedom criticized the Biden State Department for not keeping Nigeria on its list of countries of special concern.
USCIRF has publicly expressed concern on the Beijing Olympics in its annual reports for 2020 and 2021 and recommended that the United States not send government officials to the Games if the Chinese government continues to suppress religious freedom.
“We commend President Biden for implementing the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics and demonstrating the United States’ unwavering commitment to religious freedom.”
“We commend President Biden for implementing the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics and demonstrating the United States’ unwavering commitment to religious freedom,” said USCIRF Vice President Nury Turkel. “Systematic, ongoing and massive violations of religious freedom and other human rights by the Chinese government of Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners and many others betray the Olympic spirit. In fact, the genocidal regime should not have been given the privilege of hosting the Olympic Games at all. ”
China – a huge party on the world stage for its dictatorial and communist governments – came to host the 2022 Winter Games almost by default, illustrating the reluctance or inability of many countries to spend the billions of dollars needed for such spectacles.
A detailed report on the Vox newspaper website called the 2022 Winter Olympics “games no one wanted.”
Six countries originally submitted bids about hosting the games, but four dropped out ahead of selection time: Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; Oslo, Norway; and Stockholm, Sweden. Vox noted that the International Olympic Committee has faced two difficult choices: Beijing or Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Beijing seemed to be at least the worst option. In addition, Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games and was considered a reliable host if nothing else.
But since that decision was made in 2015, documented violations of human rights and religious freedoms in China have only worsened.
“China is one of the worst offenders religious freedom in the world, ”said USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr. “By changing the diplomatic boycott, the United States and like-minded countries are sending a strong and unequivocal message to the Chinese government: the international community condemns and does not tolerate its incredible policies that actively persecute religious minorities.”
Writing for the conservative political think tank The Heritage Foundation, Asian studies expert Olivia Enos explained: “Today, at least 1.8 million Uighurs are imprisoned in political re-education camps where they are exposed to rape and sexual violence, re-education and forced labor. . The Communist Party of China has set a goal of forcibly sterilizing at least 80% of Uighur women of reproductive age. Stories coming out of the camp confirm the world’s worst fears that … Uighurs are facing ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity. “
Furthermore, Enos explained, the Chinese government “undermined freedom and liberty in Hong Kong – with the stroke of a pen it turned the framework of ‘one country, two systems’ that ensured the civil and political freedoms of Hong Kong residents.”
Although the Heritage Foundation often representing the far right of American politics and theology, her critique of Beijing as the host of the world’s largest sporting event is shared across the political spectrum.
In the U.S. Congress, both Republican and Democratic officials – including Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senator Mitt Romney – supported some version of the boycott.
Jewish activists in Europe and the Uighur World Congress in London have joined a call to boycott the Beijing Games.
The Bitter Winter website reported earlier this year on Jewish groups hosting their own version of the Olympic torch relay in protest of what they called the “Genocide Games” in Beijing.
Jewish activist Esther Ofenberg he took the first section of the torch relay, from London’s Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square, keeping his words from Deuteronomy 16:20, “Justice, and only justice you will seek.”
Three hundred people allegedly took part in a fake torch relay in which Jews, Tibetans, Hong Kong residents and Uighurs took part.
Bitter Winter reported on the torch being carried: “A spiral of silver foil wrappers wrapped around a central red pillar symbolizes the blood of torture victims and was carried high above the protesters’ stream. Wrapped in barbed wire protruding like flames from her mouth, the torch is designed to represent internment camps and endless bundles of razor wire wrapped around every building, school, apartment complex and street crowd in Xinjiang. ”
He writes for the libertarian Cato Institute in April, civil liberties expert Doug Bandow acknowledged the need for the democratic world to oppose brutal Chinese leaders, but questioned whether a boycott would have any effect.
“Proponents should acknowledge that (the People’s Republic of China) will not change its policy even if America and a number of other nations stay at home,” he wrote. “Preservation of the regime is the most important goal of Beijing, and the worsening repression aims to strengthen the system. China will pay a very high price to keep control.
“Moreover, the regime cannot afford to retreat before the eyes of the world,” Bandow added. “On the contrary, the Xi government will do its best to face any criticism. Public surrender would provoke the antagonism of the people and… criticism that could cost Xi a job. The perceived weakness would also encourage new and fiercer foreign criticism and punishment. “
What is not yet evident is whether any Olympic athlete will organize their own boycotts of the Beijing Olympics – a high-stakes version of NFL player Colin Kapernik kneeling during the anthem to protest racial inequality in America. One big difference if any Olympian protests is that – unlike Kaepernick and the national anthem – he will have American conservatives on his side.
There is also one significant example of an American athlete who does not boycott the controversial place of the Olympics, and yet emphasizes human rights.
In 1936, attempts to boycott the Berlin Summer Games – on the eve of World War II – came to a halt despite the ongoing crimes of the Nazi regime. One of the athletes who went to Berlin after all was Jesse Owens, a black man who won four gold medals and was the most successful athlete at the Games.
His triumph was considered a victory for racial equality and refuting Hitler’s doctrine of Aryan supremacy. Ironically, after returning to the United States, Owens said he was “rejected” by then-US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who did not invite Owens to the White House to shake hands with Roosevelt.
In Germany, Hitler and the Nazis were humiliated but unconquered. Their anti-Semitic policies and practices have only become less visible, and global propaganda has intensified.
“When you look at Berlin in 1936, there is no doubt that Jesse Owens ridiculed Nazi racial ideology,” John Soares, a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, told Vox. “But that didn’t convince the Nazis to reconsider what they were doing.”
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