Audience reflects on 2022 Winter Olympics boycott over China’s human rights record

WASHINGTON – A congressional panel, in a hearing on May 18, weighed the possibility of a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to draw attention to long-standing human rights violations in China.

Another tactic discussed was to find another site to host the Winter Games. The floating sites included Salt Lake City; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Lake Placid, New York – the sites of the 2002, 2010 and 1980 Winter Games, respectively.

“If we can delay the Olympics by a year because of a pandemic, surely we can delay the Olympics by a year because of genocide,” said Representative Jim McGovern, D-Mass., co-chair of Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which sponsored the hearing with the Congressional Executive Commission on China.

Both the Trump and Biden administrations have called China’s treatment of ethnic Uyghurs genocide.

“There would be a huge domino effect” if a North American city offered to host the Winter Olympics, said Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Borders and a witness at the hearing. “This audience could be its epicenter.”

No panelist, or congressman, suggested during the audience that Olympians be banned from competing, but that participating countries only send their athletes – but no diplomatic delegation that could legitimize the Games.

“Big business wants to make a lot of money, and it doesn’t matter how much cruelty – even genocide – the host nation commits,” said Representative Chris Smith, RN.J., the other co-chair of the Lantos commission. Smith said he would invite U.S.-based Winter Olympics sponsors to testify at a future hearing. The US sponsors to date are Snickers, Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Dow, General Electric, Intel, Procter & Gamble and Visa.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said she “had long ceased to be naïve” that China would live up to expectations in improving human rights. man, dating back to the 1993 talks on China’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

Pelosi was also the first of several speakers to equate China with Nazi Germany, which hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and gave credibility to the Third Reich on the international stage. She noted that German strongman Adolf Hitler, in response to Germany’s treatment of Jews, allegedly remarked: “Has anyone ever heard of Armenians? “

Only 33 nations, including the United States, Canada and the Vatican, declared the mass murder and ethnic cleansing of ethnic Armenians to be genocide, many not until its centenary in 2015.

“We cannot continue to give Beijing a blank check in the hope that their behavior will change,” Pelosi said.

Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Chairman of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, said the commission had “thoroughly documented China’s assault on basic human rights, listing Tibetan Buddhists, Muslim Uyghurs Xinjiang and, more recently, the attacks in Hong Kong. , as well as “increasingly by coercing anyone abroad who defies the party line of the Chinese government.”

Merkley denounced the “shameful” attribution by the International Olympic Committee of the 2022 Winter Games to China. “An event designed to uplift the human spirit,” he said, “is being held in a nation that crushes the human spirit.”

“When Nixon went to China,” said Rep. Tom Suozzi, DN.Y., “we thought things were going to get better now.”

“China has committed serious human rights violations in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing,” said Yang Jianli, founder and chairman of Citizen Power Initiatives for China. In 2015, the IOC received new human rights guarantees before awarding the 2022 Olympic Winter Games to Beijing.

“In other words, it’s 2008 again, actually, much, much worse,” Yang said. “Genocide is the antithesis of the development of mankind.”

Beijing is the first city in Olympic history to be selected to host both the Summer (2008) and Winter Olympics. Next year’s Winter Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games are scheduled to take place from February 2 to 20 and March 4 to 13, respectively.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sees “national goals” in hosting the Winter Olympics and “personally guides” the effort, said Susan V. Lawrence, a congressional research service specialist on Asian affairs.

These include the “development of a new mega-city in China” – Zhangjiakou, 200 km from Beijing, which will host sports – “to stimulate the national spirit and rally the sons and daughters of China at home and abroad for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation “and to present the” alleged advantages of the Chinese national system, “Lawrence said.

In 2016, “China declared a people’s war on its own people, the Uyghurs,” including her own brother, said Rayhan Asat, a lawyer and human rights defender. She said her brother, Ekpar, was only guilty of “having excelled as a Uyghur”.

Ekpar Asat was arrested in 2016 upon returning from the United States to China, where he participated in a State Department-sponsored international visitors program. “My brother is being tortured and continues to be tortured,” said Rayhan Asat, adding that his continued torture is “perhaps due to my constant advocacy over the past few years”.

But “if the party thinks that I am going to shut up … they are greatly mistaken,” she said, swearing that she would be “resilient in the face of genocide”.

Witness Samuel Chu, director general of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, said that as a child he dreamed of being part of the Chinese Olympic table tennis team. He added that he was grateful when Hong Kong won its first and only Olympic gold medal in sailing at the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, a year before Hong Kong was ceded by the United Kingdom. to China.

“Hong Kong’s fall has been rapid,” Chu said. Now, he added, “Hong Kong’s legislative system is filled with Beijing devotees.” Two years ago, Chu noted, the Chinese Communist Party heard from a delegation of pro-democracy leaders from Hong Kong. Today, he said, each member of that delegation is either in prison or in exile.

“All of this happened and took place in plain sight,” Chu said. “No one can pretend (they didn’t know it) before setting foot on Chinese snow next year” for the Olympics. If these abuses cannot generate a response, he added, “nothing else will, and shame on us.”

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