Olympic sponsors should “listen to their hearts”—not dollars—and stand up to boycott the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, said Sam Brownback, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
“China is, in my estimation, the greatest threat to this human right in the world, by what they’re doing, what they’re financing, and the technology they’re now deploying,” Brownback said during a Dec. 8 interview on NTD’s “Capitol Report” program. NTD is an affiliate with The Epoch Times.
Marketers should “use their financial strength with the Chinese government” to hold China accountable for its human rights abuses, he added.
Less than two months away from the 2022 Winter Olympics, a few countries—including the United States, Australia, Canada, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom—announced a diplomatic boycott this week, saying that government officials will not attend the event, but athletes can compete as they wish.
But calls remain for further action.
“[It’s] just not enough, we need to do more,” said Brownback. “I’m supporting an advertisers boycott.”
“Don’t just listen to dollars, listen to your heart, listen to the human rights and the suffering of the people there, and stand up for them,” Brownback told the business community during the interview, urging corporate sponsors to pull their advertising dollars from China unless the regime shuts down all detention camps for Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
“So you [Beijing] don’t announce a date, you’re not going to close these concentration camps, we’re out of here. They [advertisers] should not be financing the Chinese regime while it’s conducting a genocide,” he said.
China has invested nearly $4 billion to host the Winter Olympics, Forbes reported. Yet Beijing’s iron grip on human rights has put Game sponsors—including those who have proudly declared that they support human rights globally—under moral pressure.
However, Coca-Cola, the longest continuous Olympic sponsor since 1928, along with Procter & Gamble, Visa, and Airbnb, said they had no involvement in the site selection and declined to take a stance on the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses.
“And if they don’t, what hypocrisy. … Why can’t you call out genocide by a group in China that’s killing people right now and conducting it right now?”
The host country of the 2022 Games is “showing the future of oppression,” Brownback said.
Both the Trump and the Biden administrations declared that Beijing is committing “genocide” against Uyghurs, an act that the United Nations Genocide Convention defined as the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
Since 2017, the Chinese communist regime has significantly increased its detention facilities in Xinjiang. Based on the satellite imagery data, researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute have identified and mapped over 380 sites in the detention network across the Xinjiang region—home to about 12 million Uyghurs who speak their own dialect.
The U.N. estimates that more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang. Former detainees and survivors shared their personal accounts of the atrocities in these camps, during a virtual meeting in July with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Last month, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called on the administration to implement a full boycott of the Games, meaning “no athletes, no administration officials, no corporate sponsors.”
‘Cornerstone’ of Human Rights
Brownback called religious freedom a God-given right and the “cornerstone” of human rights.
“The West had decided to make everything a human right. And when everything’s a human right, nothing’s a human right,” Brownback said in the program, noting the approach of the Trump administration to make religious freedom a top priority.
In July 2019, then-President Donald Trump and Brownback met victims of religious persecution from countries such as China, Turkey, North Korea, Iran, and Burma (also known as Myanmar).
“Indeed, we don’t think you can grow human rights in the other respects, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, unless you get this one right, freedom of religion, freedom of what you do with your own soul,” Brownback said.
It is when the government has no right to interfere, he said.
“As a free human being, my soul doesn’t yearn to be connected with a government, it yearns to be connected to Almighty God that I can pursue freely myself—and that’s what they’re [the Chinese Communist Party] at war with—It is a war they will not win.”
The reluctance of the regime to accept and learn from its faults would hold itself back, according to Brownback.
“If we’ve done things wrong ourselves, and we should own it, and so we did it, and we admit it, and we’re going to move forward. That’s the strength of an open system and the weakness of that closed communist system,” he said.