Genocide Is Not Important Enough for a Full US Olympic Boycott

A meaningless diplomatic boycott by the US
January 3, 2022 Updated: January 9, 2022

Commentary

Ongoing Uyghur genocide in China’s Xinjiang region should have been a sufficient reason for the United States and other nations to boycott the 2022 Winter Games.

The XXIV Olympic Winter Games, to be held from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20 in Beijing, is a big deal for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). While the 2008 Games of the XXIX Olympiad (the 2008 Summer Olympics in China) comprised a “coming out” party on the world stage for Beijing, the upcoming Winter Games are intended to showcase China’s leadership on the world stage—and eclipse the United States in that regard.

CCP agitprop via state-run media has been conducting a comprehensive political and psychological warfare campaign in the run-up to the Games to help achieve that objective. The themes conveyed are interwoven (and filled with the usual lies):

These themes are intended to buttress Beijing’s ascendancy as a world leader, with a carefully choreographed Winter Olympics being the proof of the pudding. Except that last bullet point above indicates a particularly prickly issue that has been a key bone of diplomatic contention between China and the rest of the world, and especially the United States, in recent months. Xi’s “human rights vision” is a weak response to ongoing Uyghur genocide.

Epoch Times Photo
Protesters gather outside the Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Canada, on Feb. 22, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Back in March, the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy released a report, titled “The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention.” The report examined evidence from publicly available official Chinese state communications, leaked official Chinese state communications, eyewitness testimony, and open-source research methods such as public satellite-image analysis and analysis of information circulating on the Chinese internet.

The report’s conclusion is devastating: “The People’s Republic of China (China) bears State responsibility for committing genocide against the Uyghurs in breach of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention). … [T]he evidence presented in this report supports a finding of genocide against the Uyghurs in breach of each and every act prohibited in Article II (a) through (e) [of the Convention].”

That report lit a fire under the CCP because it recognized a potential Olympic boycott threat in the making.

Here is an excerpt from one of the early responses from state-run China Daily (emphasis added): “The US is good at hyping the disguised label of ‘Xinjiang genocide.’ Especially before the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, the public opinion of the Five Eyes alliance and the US Congress work together, with some officials playing a role, their public opinion could easily reach the desired heat.”

Well, yes, the “desired heat” has been reached, so to speak. One contributing factor was the publishing in October of a book by Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Washington, who laid bare the concentration camp system that he calls “the largest internment of a religious minority since the second world war.” In the book, “In the Camps: Life in China’s High-Tech Penal Colony,” Byler describes the forced labor, the ideological reeducation program, the suppression of religious (Muslim) expression, the oppressive surveillance and monitoring of individuals using high tech methods, and the psychological methods used by the CCP in the camps to oppress the incarcerated.

Pressure on multinational companies exploiting Xinjiang labor to cease and desist ultimately made its way into the U.S. political realm, with the Congressional Research Service providing a document distributed to congressional staffs, titled “China Primer: Uyghurs,” in June that summarized the ongoing forced assimilation, mass internment, and forced labor in Xinjiang.

Another element of the “heat” was delivered from a surprising quarter—that of professional sports. In October, Enes Kanter, star center for the Boston Celtics, criticized communist China for improper treatment of Chinese minorities, particularly in Xinjiang. He has also criticized shoemaker Nike for the company’s ongoing “silence on injustice in China.” Kanter has worn customized shoes during NBA games—with the words “Modern Day Slavery” and “No More Excuses”—in a continuing protest.

Epoch Times Photo
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom, looks towards his team’s bench during the first half of an NBA basketball game, in Boston, on Dec. 1, 2021. (Charles Krupa/AP Photo)

Public and congressional pressure on the Biden administration finally forced a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, as announced by press secretary Jen Psaki on Dec. 6.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” Psaki said during a press briefing.

Given the seriousness of the allegations, a diplomatic boycott is a tepid response that falls well short of possible U.S. actions. A more serious and appropriate response would have been a complete boycott—for example, not sending the U.S. team to China. (The National Hockey League announced that the United States would not field a team at the Games due to COVID-related concerns. Too bad their announcement did not refer to the Uyghur genocide!) Another serious action would be to persuade NBCUniversal (awarded Olympic broadcast rights by the International Olympic Committee through 2032) not to broadcast the Games.

Who really cares that there will be no official U.S. diplomatic presence at the Winter Olympics?

The diplomatic boycott is nothing more than a weak protest by a U.S. administration that is compromised by people beholden to the CCP, as noted here and here.

Certainly the CCP won’t mind, as the U.S. absence will be spun as more “proof” of Chinese ascendancy to world leadership. That several other countries—including Canada, the UK, Australia, and Lithuania—have joined the U.S. diplomatic boycott is of passing concern to Beijing.

What the CCP wants to head off at all costs is a serious boycott of the Games because that would be an embarrassing blow to its prestige on the world stage.

And there are many reasons why China should not have been allowed to hold the Games in the first place, and which remain valid reasons for a real boycott, as listed by Breitbart here:

  • China is committing one of history’s largest genocides.
  • No safety guarantees for Taiwanese participants.
  • No safety guarantees for journalists.
  • China abuses and represses athletes.
  • China’s dubious olympics record.
  • Uncontrolled coronavirus threats.

Despite all of these reasons, the Biden administration kowtows to China with a non-boycott boycott. To top it off, the United States will be sending over a dozen additional low-level diplomats to China to support the U.S. team and deal with any logistical, administrative, or police issues that may occur in authoritarian China during the Games.

And the kicker is that Chinese state-run Global Times is using that State Department announcement to try to embarrass U.S. allies that joined in the diplomatic boycott: “The double-faced move of the U.S. government would embarrass its allies and proved that divergences exist in the Biden administration on approaching the Beijing Winter Olympics, observers say.”

What an embarrassment! The Biden administration increasingly looks like the Keystone Kops despite promises of “tough diplomacy” and “competition” with China.

Where is the public accountability and political pain for the CCP’s genocidal actions in Xinjiang?

Conclusion

Ongoing Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang apparently is not a sufficient reason for the United States to completely boycott the XXIV Olympic Winter Games in China. The response from the Biden administration is a weak diplomatic boycott amounting to nothing other than a simple verbal protest without lasting effect.

It would appear that the CCP has staved off its worst fears—a real Winter Olympic Games boycott by the United States and other countries. Stand by for a major Chinese propaganda offensive in February during the Games. If only a participating Olympic team would display “Free the Uyghurs” banners during the Opening Ceremony march—to remind the world of ongoing CCP criminality!

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Stu Cvrk
Stu Cvrk retired as a captain after serving 30 years in the U.S. Navy in a variety of active and reserve capacities, with considerable operational experience in the Middle East and the Western Pacific. Through education and experience as an oceanographer and systems analyst, Cvrk is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received a classical liberal education that serves as the key foundation for his political commentary.