In a daring expose to Latvian national broadcasters at the Beijing Games, Olympic medalist and current coach of the Latvian luge team Martins Rubenis spoke candidly about his disdain for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its attempts to manipulate the world by turning the Games into one big “political theatre.”
In the interview, on Feb. 7, in front of Beijing police, Rubenis was not afraid to bring up the topic of the CCP’s continual violation of the human rights of it’s citizens, specifically raising what he said is “the biggest evil”—China’s state-sanctioned forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience.
He said that now is “a special time,” that we cannot just look at “what our governments will do, or what the people who make decisions will do,” but that “each of us has to deeply look within ourselves,” and “open our eyes a little to the fact that we cannot sell our souls.”
The Epoch Times translated and published a report on that interview, and then reached out to Rubenis for a Q&A, to go a little deeper into some of the things he raised at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. We also find out what the CCP did after Rubenis spoke out.
The Epoch Times: Mr. Rubenis, you told Latvian national broadcasters at the Winter Olympics on Feb. 7 that, in 2015, it was absolutely unacceptable for you to hear about the International Olympics Committee’s (IOC) decision to allow China to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Can you please expand on this?
Mr. Martins Rubenis: This feeling involves quite a long history to be explained. Dating back to the 2008 Summer Olympics, when the CCP was in 2001 awarded host status for this historical sports and cultural event, it was expected that the CCP will become more open to the democratic values and improve their most fundamental human rights record.
Leading up to the Games, however, we all learned about the countrywide brutal persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and the security force apparatus called the “610 office,” and the emerging news about labor camps and detention centers who, in collaboration with military hospitals, performed inhumane forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience. All of that was spotlighted by a very small group of people and media, while governments and big media stayed silent.
Allowing them to host the Olympics was a clear message to the CCP that their promises to improve the human rights situation in China are not taken seriously. So they continued the same evil practices of oppression of their own goodhearted people, including even more new groups.
Time went by, and 2015 was the year to select the host for the 2022 Winter Olympics. When I first heard the news of China being selected, it was like a bucket of cold water over my head; I could not believe that the IOC could make such a ridiculous choice, once again.
The Epoch Times: You’ve been a vocal advocate for human rights in China for about 15 years, and the CCP would surely have you recorded as such on their files. Some people may have the opinion that you should not have gone to Beijing given your clear stance. Can you explain why you decided to go in the end, knowing you really didn’t want to support a CCP-hosted Games?
Mr. Rubenis: Knowing my China human rights activist record, it was not an easy choice. At first, I did not know if I would even be granted a visa to enter China, so I decided to make it as the first step and opportunity to see what they would do—if they didn’t grant the visa, it wouldn’t look good for them. After receiving a visa, even without an interview with the embassy, my first thought was, “Maybe they want me to come to China to get arrested.” It happened not to be the case.
Going through these steps and seeing the events unfold, I realized that all of this was done to make things as quiet as possible, not to damage the image of the CCP before the Games. And my feeling was it was not even to change the perception of the world, but to make a false picture to people of China, that the CCP can do things in a civilized way.
However, after my interview with Latvian Television and Radio, while in China where I expressed my concerns about inhumane forced organ harvesting by the CCP and oppression of its good kindhearted people, after one day, I heard that the president of the Latvian Olympic Committee was invited to the Chinese Embassy in Riga to be “educated” on how to silence the team members for “wrong thinking.”
But after returning home, I was happy to hear that his understanding was that athletes and team members have the right to express their own opinions and will not be silenced.
The Epoch Times: It’s been reported that the Olympic venues are right alongside prison camps that torture Falun Gong practitioners for their faith. How does it make you feel knowing this?
Mr. Rubenis: It was not an easy feeling getting on the flight to China and knowing that people like me practicing Falun Dafa are held in detention centers, tortured, and killed just for following principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. At the same time, I knew that whatever happens to me in China, might help their voices to be heard and this brutal persecution to end soon.
Actually, at the same time, we were held under constant watch 24/7, so it made many people from the rest of the world experience the feeling of being held in a kind of detention center, just in a little softer touch. I hope that everyone who experienced the same feelings will bring this message to their countries, and help more people to understand what communist rule is really about.
The Epoch Times: You mentioned that the Chinese officials who were assigned to greet the athletes arriving into the country for the Games appeared to view the foreigners as a contagious “plague,” donning full white protective suits. Why, in your opinion, did they act like that?
Mr. Rubenis: Communism was always trying to turn the meaning of a good and evil upside down. Of course, the CCP sees people with traditional ways of life and morals as a threat to its existence; that’s why they look at the foreigners as a threat, even more mentally than physically.
If we look at the concept of communism as plague, and see the amount of people it has killed, this may exceed the amount of lives that all the wars of every era and plagues all combined have taken.
The Epoch Times: You mentioned in that Latvian media interview how unimpressed you were by the CCP’s local television propaganda during it’s Olympic coverage, namely, they freeze-framed an image of Tiananmen Square, with it’s portrait of Mao Zedong, with the Olympic rings in the corner. Can you comment on this incompatibility?
Mr. Rubenis: Since I grew up in the small country of Latvia, occupied by the Soviet Union and ruled by Communist Party of Soviet Republics, and after its collapse, being able to experience a humane way of life in democratic society, it was clear for me what people of China have been going through this last century. Mao in this case represents the beginning of all the suffering of Chinese people of this era. Having it seen in one picture with the Olympic rings—which represent striving for peace in the world, greatness in sports, and high human morals—was quite shocking for me.
The Epoch Times: You said that the Olympic Games in China are one big political theatre. What do you believe they are trying to achieve, and what do they want the world to see?
Mr. Rubenis: As I see it, every public event of high significance is used as a platform for the CCP to implement their soft power strategies. Before, it was used to hold on to prestige and show its political power to the world. But recently, more and more countries have experienced and seen it as it really is during the handling of the CCP virus outbreak, also called COVID-19, and are no longer fooled by it and are taking, more and more, a stronger stance against the CCP.
That is why all they’re trying to achieve is to present a false picture of the Chinese people, that communism is still the best way of governance. However, if you watch carefully, they did not even achieve to fill the Olympic stadium with CCP members during the Opening Ceremony. Thanks to the Quit CCP movement in China and around the world, more then 390 million people have quit the party and denounced their participation in its affiliated organizations.
The Epoch Times: Referring to your experience of arriving in Beijing for the Games and what you saw while at the Olympic Village, you said your “heart aches” seeing it all before your eyes. Can you express why it impacted you so much?
Mr. Rubenis: Since my childhood, I was interested in martial arts, which also has roots in traditional Chinese culture. I dreamed of coming to China one day to experience all its beauty, but landing in Beijing for the Olympics, I knew I will neither see the traditional Chinese culture there, nor feel the spirit of the Olympics, since all of it was covered by a haze of Chinese Communist Party propaganda.
To better understand where those feelings come from, I decided to watch the Opening Ceremony of the “CCP Games” on TV, and yes, I saw nothing of traditional Chinese culture there, just some show without a deeper meaning. Even the Olympic torch flame was so small that you could barely see it; same as the size of the Olympic spirit dying out there.
The Epoch Times: In your interview with the Latvian media, you said, “I believe that these Olympic Games, and all this situation in the world with the whole Covid boom, will open our eyes a little to the fact that we cannot sell our souls.” Can you please expand on this. Where do you see it headed if things don’t change?
Mr. Rubenis: Doing any collaboration or business with CCP-controlled businesses, and knowing that all of the big businesses in China have a connection to the party, means supporting the evil and, at the same time, having blood on the hands. We know how many goods are made in labor camps and detention centers where people are tortured by working an unbearable amount of hours. All of it at the same time kills business opportunities for other countries, since workers have to be decently paid.
However, there is a hope, and many big companies are seeing supply chain difficulties and the true face of the CCP that even tries to manipulate them. Many have started to move their businesses out of China, and this means less public opinion might be manipulated by the CCP.
To give an example, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, after some years, archives are being opened, and all the people who have been cooperating with or stayed loyal to the party now live in shame, or have been brought to justice for all the evil they have committed. So my advice to everyone who still has ties to it, is quit it immediately.
The Epoch Times: What do you believe the world should reflect on at the end of this Olympics?
Mr. Rubenis: I hope these Olympic Games will expose the Chinese Communist Party games on the world stage, and that more people will be able to talk about it from their own experience and no longer be fooled by short-term benefits they can gain by cooperating with this evil regime.
At the same time, I hope the IOC will learn their lesson and reevaluate standards for awarding rights to host the Olympics Games. I believe that Olympic principles are to make the world a better place to live, not to give a platform for political power struggle of regimes, that are not supported even by their own citizens anymore.
The Epoch Times: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Mr. Rubenis: I see there is a hope for humankind, as more and more people are awakening for doing what’s right.
During these Games, a lot of athletes were able to see the CCP rule for what it is, and will bring that message to their communities, governments, and even the IOC, to stand up for human values.
Stay away from the CCP and it will die on its own.
Martins Rubenis, aged 43, is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and current coach of the Latvian luge team. He started learning luge when he was 9 years old. He competed in a total of five Winter Olympics. Among winning several international competitions, he won Olympic bronze in both the men’s luge singles event at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin—which was Latvia’s first Winter Olympics medal as a sovereign state after the collapse of the Soviet Union—and the luge team relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, with Latvia Post honoring the win by issuing a commemorative stamp of Rubenis and his teammates. He retired as an athlete after the 2014 Winter Olympics and took up the role of team coach and also became a member of the Latvian Olympic Committee. Rubenis is a vocal advocate for human rights in China, and once stood as the official ambassador for the Global Human Rights Torch Relay in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics so as to help raise awareness of the plight of groups persecuted by the CCP in China and to call for a move of the 2008 Games away from China.