News/Op-Ed: World Diplomats Give the 2022 Beijing Olympics the Cold Shoulder
By Dominic Ramirez and Eric Torres, Editor-in-Chief
With the 2022 Winter Olympics set to begin next week in Beijing, the United States, along with many other nations around the world, plan a diplomatic boycott of the games due to human rights issues in the host country.
Other countries participating in this boycott include the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. The issue of boycotting arose due to reports of the genocide of the Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic group of Western China, as well as general human rights violations performed by the Chinese government.
The last time the United States fully boycotted the Olympic games was in the summer in 1980 when it was held in Moscow, where athletes were actually held out of competition. At the time, the U.S. took this action in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
On December 6th, the Biden administration announced that it would diplomatically boycott the Winter Olympics by not sending an official U.S. delegation. However, this decision will not affect U.S. athletes who are still scheduled to compete.
“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang and we simply can’t do that,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a press conference.
However, to avoid penalizing American athletes who have trained very hard for the Olympics, the United States will still send all those who are to compete but hopes to send a strong and clear message with this diplomatic boycott.
“Standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans. We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights and we feel strongly in our position, and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” said Press Secretary Psaki.
The reported unlawful killing of the Uyghur people in China is a huge issue for a lot of countries. The Uyghurs are a Turkish ethnic group who live in east and central Asia. Since 2014, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has placed the Uyghur people in internment camps without any legal processes.
The prisoners in these camps face cruel punishments such as forced labor, sterilization, forced abortion, organ harvesting, beatings, suspension of religious practices and even death. However, the Chinese government has denied all of these claims and does its best to cover up any evidence.
Obviously, the Chinese dispute these claims and are not in support of United States and others on this issue, as a Chinese spokesperson called the United States’ diplomatic boycott of the games a “self-directed political farce.” However, as the topic is censored on Chinese social media, and it is only a diplomatic boycott, the majority view in China is to dismiss the action as unimportant, as athletes from boycotting nations are still competing.
“No-one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics to be successfully held,” said Chinese spokesman Liu Pengyu, as quoted by Reuters.
Another layer to the cause of this Olympic boycott is the suspicious disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. Shuai disappeared in November shortly after accusing former high ranking CCP official Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.
A few weeks after her disappearance, the Chinese state media relaced a screenshot of an email they claimed was written by Shuai. The email stated that she was fine and that her previous accusation was false, but it is widely believed that this email was fake.
However, she reappeared and spoke publicly a month later, again denying her previous accusations in a news interview, which raised public concern.
Furthermore, with the current tense international environment, including the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is important to ensure the safety of all involved. The debate of whether the U.S. and others are doing too much, or not enough, will continue for a long time.
Many call for a complete withdrawal from the games, while others view it as casting stones. However, the overall questions of money, fairness and standing up for human rights are tough issues, which will require solutions that are beyond the Olympic games.
Although a number of countries are boycotting the Olympics, some are not sending over government officials simply due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.