‘Shame on the IOC’—Andrew Bremberg on the 2022 Beijing Olympics and Human Rights Atrocities in China
“What else does a country need to do in terms of terrible human rights abuses and bad behavior to merit a response from international organizations like the IOC [International Olympic Committee]?”
We sit down with Andrew Bremberg, president of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and former U.S. representative to the Office of the United Nations.
“One of the almost central tenants of our policy with China for the last 20 plus years has been to reward bad behavior,” Bremberg said.
Jan Jekielek: Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Ambassador Andrew Bremberg: Thanks so much for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: Ambassador Bremberg, we were just at the No to Beijing 2022 rally in front of the US Capitol. I still can’t believe, at this moment, that Beijing is having the Olympic Games in 2022 after their supposed human rights coming out in 2008 was supposed to solve everything. We saw it went exactly in the other direction, and the IOC rewarded them a second time.
Ambassador Bremberg: Yes, it’s incredibly distressing for those of us that care about human rights and human dignity, and care about the Olympics, to see the organization allow itself to be used, yet again, as a vehicle for the CCP’s propaganda. I mean, this is what we saw that happened in 2008, both from a domestic and an international perspective, as you said.
But to see it happening now where we’re no longer in a media climate circa 2008. The leadership, under Xi Jinping, has been very clear, and very brutal, that this veneer of reform that was present before is gone. That, under his leadership, the Chinese Communist Party has reached back to its very totalitarian Maoist roots.
That’s why we’ve seen both the genocide happening in Xinjiang for the Uyghurs, and other Turkish minorities and Muslims in western China, and the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong. I mean, these are very recent, real, very obvious changes, that no one can be in doubt about. And to see the Olympics go forward is just very, very concerning.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, the question on everybody’s mind, I mean, is, how is this possible? Why? Do you have any thoughts on this?
Ambassador Bremberg: I think it’s a failure of leadership, a failure of leadership at multiple levels; I mean, most specifically at the IOC. They have the moral responsibility to exercise better judgment and to show leadership.
When faced with these grotesque human rights violations happening, they should have stepped forward and done something; sought help by other member states to help advise them about how they could delay or move or change the venue for Beijing. There are lots of roads they could have gone down.
But then, separate from the IOC, it’s a failure of leadership of much of the world, of the entire international community—the United States, our partners in Europe, and around the world. Freedom and democratic governments could have taken much stronger hands in pressuring the IOC to do the right thing, and that didn’t happen. So that’s how we’ve [ended] up and become where we are today.
Mr. Jekielek: What does the IOC get out of hosting the Olympics in Beijing?
Ambassador Bremberg: Honestly, I don’t know. I think it’s going to end up being much worse for them than not having hosted the Games there, or even having moved them out of there. I think this is going to be terribly damaging to the brand of the IOC, to the idea that this is an organization, that in its charter, [it] isn’t just about sports, right?
It talks about humanism and solidarity as being foundational human rights elements to what undergirds the IOC ethos, and no one can think that they actually take that seriously today. Now that they’ve chosen to host these genocide games in Beijing, it’s going to be deeply damaging to their image around the world.
Mr. Jekielek: I just want to comment on this. Is there any bigger or more stark red line than genocide?
Ambassador Bremberg: No, I certainly don’t think so. Maybe war, outright war or invasion of another country, but it’s hard to imagine any kind of worse, as you said, red line. What else does a country need to do in terms of terrible human rights, abuses, and bad behavior to merit a response from international organizations like the IOC?
Mr. Jekielek: When I think of incentives, I always think of money. It’s often involved. You actually have a report out recently that’s talking about corporate involvement in China, right? I’ve certainly read quite a bit about how much money is involved for the IOC, and related organizations, all these sponsors. So how does money play into all this?
Ambassador Bremberg: You know, when it comes to the IOC, I don’t know. Having just returned in the last year to the United States after serving as the US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how both the IOC and other international organizations work or try to address themselves in the context of the challenge of China.
Quite honestly, the most basic assumption I’ve made is that it’s really just a lack of moral courage and lack of moral leadership. Not that there aren’t scenarios where there could be financial inducements or things like that; I believe them. But it’s easy just for me to have seen firsthand, it’s just a lack of moral courage. It’s individual people that have no moral fortitude and are just either afraid or unwilling to take a stand and do the right thing. I’ve seen that time and time again.
While there could be financial aspects, and of course, the IOC had lots of, I’m sure, sunk costs into putting on the Games in Beijing. But I mean, how much is your moral integrity worth? I mean, how much is it worth to you, to maintain the idea that your organization actually stands for solidarity, if you claim it? I mean, you can’t put a price tag on that.
Mr. Jekielek: On the corporate side now, there are huge amounts of money, very transparently involved; both for actually broadcasting the Games, and also for all sorts of sponsorships. You, actually, in your new role with the Victims of Communism, you’ve now published this report related to this. Tell me about that.
Ambassador Bremberg: Just today, we’ve released our new Corporate Complicity Scorecard, which is a new, first-of-its-kind report, where we looked at eight major US corporations and examined their business activities in China. The fact that someone is doing business in China is not necessarily a problem.
But we think, looking at what are clearly the most troubling aspects of China’s human rights violations today—its use of forced labor in the genocide in Xinjiang, of Uyghurs and other minorities, the aggressive development of AI, and surveillance tools used to surveil and clamp down on Chinese people across the entire country like had never been done before; the most Orwellian surveillance state being developed today, and the militarization, direct connections to military activities done by the PLA.
We thought these are very clear or should be red lines that no US company would ever want to cross or be engaged in those activities. And I really encourage individuals to check out our website victimsofcommunism.org, where you can find this new report, or follow us on Twitter @VoCommunism.
But we think it’s a really important first step. Unfortunately, there are thousands of companies that do business in China. We’ve looked at these first eight, mostly large major US tech companies, but we want to look at companies across the different industries, to see what type of exposure they have to these really troubling areas of the Chinese Communist Party’s worst activities.
Mr. Jekielek: So what gets you enough?
Ambassador Bremberg: Well, we looked at whether or not they had been having any direct involvement with forced labor or operations in Xinjiang, and that was a kind of red line. You’d automatically get an F. And then, the other elements were additive. We looked at multiple elements in each category.
If you had no good areas where you had no activity or had too many areas where there was troubling activity, that was added up in our report; that lowered a company’s score. Unfortunately, we had so many companies that failed.
Really, our hope is that this will be the beginning of a process where some companies will actually evaluate themselves and change their behavior. That’s really the ideal goal, so that the companies we examined, plus all the companies we haven’t examined yet, will look at these criteria and say, “We’re going to change our practices, change our activities to avoid these troubling areas.”
But if they don’t, the real opportunity I see then is, it’s got to come to Congress and our policymakers to force that change. We just saw at the end of 2021, the passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that puts in place the prohibition on any importations of products made by forced labor, or any connection to forced labor, through Xinjiang, throughout China. That’s an important first step. That was critical.
But I think we need to see Congress take more action, to make clear to companies that direct involvement in the surveillance state of China is not going to be allowed. Or direct involvement with militarization by the PLA with China, can’t be allowed. So I think we need to see more actions taken to make clear that if companies aren’t going to voluntarily choose to do the right thing, our government’s going to force them.
Mr. Jekielek: Something comes to mind that you said in your speech at this event, where you said that the goal of using the Olympics, or ostensibly, this is what we were told, knowing the China realities, is that we will change China, right? The IOC or the international community, the West, liberal democracy will change China in a positive direction.
But I think you said that it happened actually in the opposite, in exactly the opposite. So tell me, what did you mean by that? That’s a big statement to make.
Ambassador Bremberg: It is, and I just stepped back. Looking back over the last 30 to 40 years was this large hope in the United States, and across most of the West, that through economic integration, and economic liberalization with China, we’d see political liberalization, and China moves on that arc towards being a more liberal democracy; a country that actually valued, and supported, and protected human rights. That was the hope.
But what we’ve seen is that too much of that interaction was through our companies, through these international organizations, that are all very weak in a larger political sense. The United States is an incredibly strong and powerful country. China is an incredibly strong and powerful country. The IOC is not a strong entity, nor are these individual businesses.
So what happened is we thought that through these modes of engagement, the kind of underlying Western values that undergird all those organizations would help permeate into China, and help change China through that engagement. But because these organizations aren’t actually that strong, what happened, and the CCP was very committed to their ideology, and their way of governing themselves, and how they’ve felt their worldview should dominate.
They used those connections to push their views of censorship, and not caring about human rights, back out through those very channels. Where, instead of—whether it’s the IOC, some of the UN bodies, or our own companies—they now become almost mouthpieces at times, or passive observers, and basically neutered as any type of critic of what you would normally expect, these individuals or companies to condemn all sorts of new, terrible human behavior.
We’ve talked about it before so many of us care deeply about social justice issues around the world. And how is it that these companies and these international organizations have become truly silent in the face of the worst human rights abuses happening on the planet today?
Mr. Jekielek: Well, ostensibly, because there’s a cost to being vocal.
Ambassador Bremberg: Right.
Mr. Jekielek: As we’ve seen.
Ambassador Bremberg: That’s right.
Mr. Jekielek: So, tell me how this plays into the picture.
Ambassador Bremberg: Well, look, we’ve seen China. As I said, they’re a strong actor. They’ve chosen many times how they’ve strategically engaged. One of their key strategies has been, any time anyone deviates or gets out of line, there are consequences, right?
If your company or this international organization starts to poke around the wrong way or starts to say things, there’s going to be consequences; whether it’s financial or diplomatic, or political access—it’s not war, but there are consequences. They always ensure there’s a cost. And we’ve never done the same.
Most of US policy for the last 30 years has been to never make there be consequences, just any type of consequences, to bad behavior by China. I’ve frequently said, a basic rule of foreign policy should be, never reward bad behavior.
This seems to me that’s been one of the central tenants of our policy with China for the last 20-plus years; has been to reward bad behavior off of this false hope that as long as we remain in dialogue, and talking, and further integrating economic ties; well, eventually they’re going to come along. And what I think we’ve seen now is that it’s mostly been the opposite.
Mr. Jekielek: So it’s basically rewarding by not actually calling things out when you see it.
Ambassador Bremberg: Right, absolutely. I mean, we should be calling things out. I had an opportunity to observe China in the international sphere, working in the UN. It was very interesting to see how they would try to use the idea of keeping things neutral.
They would say, like a policy aggressor or changing the status quo, where they change the status quo all the time. Every time they fail to live up to their international commitment which they’ve made. No one forced China to make many of their international commitments, whether it’s their commitments to human rights, their commitments to the UK as part of the Hong Kong handover in the 1990s.
These are freely chosen decisions and commitments made by the Chinese Communist Party. And every time they fail to live up to them, they’re the ones that have changed things.
What they’re doing is they’re saying to us, “Oh, yes, we agree and believe in these things,” but their actions show that that’s a lie, or not true. That becomes the moment where, do we then respond in some way to show, “No, that’s not acceptable.” There has to be some sort of consequence, or do we let it go?
That’s what I said earlier where I fear, unfortunately, most of US policy vis-a-vis China for many of the last 20, 25 years, has mostly been the latter; where we’ve turned a blind eye. And it can’t help but reinforce to the Chinese Communist Party that, “Well, clearly these countries don’t actually care about these things. Because if they did, they would have responded in some way.”
So it’s a deeply troubling pattern that has been very difficult, I think, for the United States, and particularly for our companies to figure out how to get out of. But I think the urgency is so present and clear to everyone today that we have to now start changing how we act.
Mr. Jekielek: Two thoughts immediately. One is there was a Silicon Valley billionaire. I don’t want to mispronounce his name, but he talked about how “This is not high on my priority list.” I wonder how often that’s the case?
Ambassador Bremberg: Yes. I actually thought it was an incredibly helpful moment because it was true. He said the quiet part out loud, right? It was true. And that is true for most business leaders and most political leaders in the United States. Now it’s wrong, and it’s a shame, but it’s true.
If it was, and I forget his language in Above the Line or whatever, if it was relevant to people, do you think these companies would be the lead sponsors of the Olympic Games in Beijing right now? Of course not. If the people at those companies actually cared about what’s happening, specifically, addressing the issue of the genocide of Uyghurs; of course, they never would have been sponsors.
I think it was, I hope for our country, larger or more broadly, this can be a teachable moment. Where we can see someone say this, “They actually told a very sad truth, that that’s true for most people. So what are you doing? What is anyone doing in their life today to show, to disprove him; to make him wrong?” Because if we don’t, then he was just right that it doesn’t actually matter to people. That’s extremely disappointing to even think that could be possible.
Mr. Jekielek: Just the idea of the Genocide Convention in 1945 was simply, “If we let this happen, it’s going to come to your doorstep too.” I mean, that’s how I read it, anyway.
Ambassador Bremberg: Right. Well, and also the whole premise of “Never again,” right? That never again will countries stand by and let other countries commit genocide. I mean, that’s part of also one of the undergirding moral impulses of the whole concept of the Convention.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, I want to talk about the UN a little bit more. But before we go there, at the rally I’m not sure if it’s you that mentioned it, but there are a few countries including the US that are doing a diplomatic boycott. Now, so that’s certainly something; it’s not nothing. Just what are your thoughts about diplomatic boycott?
Ambassador Bremberg: I think that was incredibly important that the US did that, and that a handful of other countries did as well. But if you just look across democratic countries around the world, most did nothing. With the incredible genocide happening to Uyghurs and Muslim minorities in Western China, not a single Muslim majority country has a diplomatic boycott or has said anything; and that is shameful.
I hope individuals and leaders in those countries realize how their silence in the face of such evil and genocide is, I find damning, and they should be ashamed of themselves. So I think it’s incredibly important that the US did do that. However, I think it’s been necessary, but so far, insufficient, and the US needs to do more.
Where I’d really like to see, I’d love to see the President of the United States talk some time in the next three weeks. Americans are going to be paying attention to the Olympics, and talking about the Olympics. Many don’t know that there is a diplomatic boycott by the US. So tell the American people that there is a diplomatic boycott for the Olympics. Then I’d love to hear him tell directly to the American people why. The American people don’t know.
We need our leaders, starting from the President on down, all of our political leaders to tell the American people why is there a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics? What is happening in China today? They’re going to see whatever version of the propaganda that the CCP wants to put out, that unfortunately, our own broadcasters are going to be complicit in.
But it is an opportunity for our leaders to say, “Well, you may be seeing or hearing this propaganda, but we’re going to tell you of what’s really happening in China today. Specifically, about the genocide happening in Western China, but also talk about the other persecutions—the persecution of Christians across the entire country, the ongoing, crushing of democratic self-governance in Hong Kong today, the threats to Taiwan, and the persecution of other minorities.”
I mean, the ongoing decades-long running persecution of those in Tibet, in southwestern China, or those Mongols in Inner Mongolia parts of China. We are seeing a deeply oppressive, tyrannical regime in the Chinese Communist Party. That’s why it’s both a shame that we have them hosting the Olympics, but we can use it as an opportunity to defeat their propaganda by using this as an actually incredibly educational moment where Americans are no longer blind to the facts of what’s happening.
If we come out of this in March with an American population much more aware of what’s happening, that’s a way for us to turn this into a defeat for the Chinese Communist Party. But it takes real leadership to do that.
Mr. Jekielek: What do you make of one of the activist actions suggested at the event was to just have people not watch the Games? I think there’s a hashtag with it. What do you think about that?
Ambassador Bremberg: Yes, I certainly encourage people not to watch the Games. I won’t be watching the Games, and I really hope that this is the least-watched Olympics because I think that will start to send a message. But I recognize people are still going to do so, and so I think it’s important that we find a way, whether it’s athletes or other corporate sponsors, to speak up, particularly our government leaders. I mean, it’s their job.
It’s not the job of an athlete to be a political activist or to condemn what’s happening in China. I mean, I have deep sympathy for every athlete that is forced to stand in Beijing, and compete in the Olympics, and be put in this situation. I mean, shame on the IOC. They never should have been put in this situation. The IOC did this to the athletes.
But it is the job and responsibility of our government leaders to address these issues. That’s where I really hope we see very clear messages from our national leaders about what has [been] happening in China today—why it is wrong, why we have a diplomatic boycott, and why that’s so important.
Frankly, then, what else are we going to do as the United States, as the leader of the free world, to address these very real challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party?
Mr. Jekielek: I’ve spoken with people about this idea of athletes doing some kind of action, right? At the same time, those same people that might have considered this are also thinking to themselves, but what will China do? Because we’ve seen over the last few years what can happen when you, for example, hold a powerful person in jail in Canada or pardon me, jail? House arrest, comfortable house arrest in Canada.
There are multiple examples of how the CCP seemingly, without awareness of what’s happening internationally, just takes very severe action against people. Doesn’t matter if they’re from Canada, from the US, wherever.
Ambassador Bremberg: No, I agree. Which is why, what I said is I hold the IOC responsible for the safety of every athlete in Beijing. I mean, China’s responsible, but I don’t believe they will protect the safety of every athlete, necessarily, in Beijing. I hold the IOC responsible for that. I would have great admiration for any actions by our incredible athletes there at the Olympics, but they will be making tough decisions, and putting themselves at risk. And they never should have been put in that position.
It’s a real failure by the IOC and the international community, and member countries, to have put them in that position, where they now have to face this moral struggle of, “How do I use this platform or not use this platform, where, if I’m aware of what’s actually happening here in China, I’m now on a podium, or I’m now central stage here and feel the moral compulsion that I should say or do something, recognizing that it could come as a huge cost to me.”
These Games aren’t happening in the United States, or some other country where people are free to express themselves with no consequences. Right? I mean any athletes that do anything, I have nothing but the deepest respect for. That takes an act of raw courage to do that. So we’ll see.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and there’s this whole element. So there are credible reports that this app that every athlete has to download onto their phone.
Ambassador Bremberg: Right.
Mr. Jekielek: Essentially that creates this deep level of surveillance that we’re familiar with from reports from Xinjiang, and frankly, other smart cities in China, and so forth.
Ambassador Bremberg: Yes. No, I mean, we will see this firsthand, and I hope our athletes talk about it when they leave China and return to the United States, and talk about those experiences. This is the exact type of deeply disturbing surveillance activities that we think no US companies should have any part of.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes, it’s apparently listening to you all the time, recording everything,
Ambassador Bremberg: Yes, I’m not familiar with the details of all the problems with that app. I mean, perhaps no one has yet. We may learn more about it through the course of the Olympics. But this is, again, another example, which is truly troubling. Again, the IOC would allow this to go forward, and not stand up for the athletes. That’s their responsibility.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, let’s jump to international organizations. Let’s talk about the UN for starters. You, I mean Victims of Communism running this organization; that’s a new hat for you.
Ambassador Bremberg: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: How is it that you ended up here? It’s perhaps an unexpected route?
Ambassador Bremberg: Yes, it has been. I spent most of my career in public service working on domestic regulatory issues. When I had the opportunity to serve as Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, it was an incredibly eye-opening experience about the threat and challenge posed by the Chinese Communist Party today.
When I left government service, I was thrilled to take on the honor of being the new president of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, because leaving that experience, I knew that I wanted to dedicate myself to helping educate people about the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party, and communism more broadly, poses to the United States and to the world today.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and we’ve talked about some elements of this, but why don’t you just tell me, what is it that you learned exactly there? Because again, a big shift, right?
Ambassador Bremberg: Absolutely, yes. I’ve said to a number of folks that have asked me a similar question; that part of it, of course, was learning more directly about the role in the activities of China in the multilateral space, and seeing that firsthand, what they’re trying to do.
But frankly, a bigger part of it was seeing how so many other countries were basically passive or not reacting. So it was more other countries’ behavior than China’s behavior that I found the most concerning. I had expected that the Chinese Communist Party would act in its interest. It has a very different fundamental view of human rights than I do. I knew that going in. So I expect them to act that way.
I did not expect to see such passivity and weakness across the multilateral system that the United States built, right? I mean, the United States, our partners, and allies built the UN—the multilateral system—over decades after World War II.
And to see that whole system, and so many member states, individual countries that are partners and allies that care about democracy, basically take very passive roles, and trying to defend that system, was deeply concerning and very eye-opening.
I’ll mention one example that relates to today and the rally today. I had the opportunity to work with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Let me stop and pause, and say, why does this office exist?
Well, in the UN Charter, in the UN system, we have put human rights as a founding issue, that we believe human rights are important. So why would we even need an office? Because every country’s signed onto this—we’ve said human rights are important. This office exists because of a very important reason, and a good insight into, I think, human nature, and problems with every country. That while we all profess to put human rights first, we’re always going to fall short.
The way countries deal with one another is very multifaceted. You’ve got political issues, economic issues, security issues. So we recognize that even though we do believe in human rights first, and we care about this, we know ourselves well enough to know there are going to be times when we fail to put human rights first.
To address that, we’re going to create a special independent office in the UN, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights whose sole job is to examine and advocate on human rights issues; who is free from all of those other kind of political considerations that could cause a country to ignore a human rights issue for now. In any scenario, to be that human rights advocate.
To be in this situation where this office, the current High Commissioner has utterly failed in doing their job, was just incredibly disappointing to see. This office has done great work throughout its history. It works with dozens of what are called special rapporteurs that do incredible examinations on different issues.
This office has been doing an in-depth investigation and taking witness testimony on the genocide in Xinjiang, the genocide of Uyghurs. What we have seen in public reports is that the report that this office has prepared has been done for a very long time.
The High Commissioner of the office, the person leading this office themselves has blocked the release of this report so that it won’t interfere with the propaganda effort that the Chinese Communist Party is going to engage in during their Olympic Games. That is unconscionable doesn’t even begin to tell the story.
Your job is to promote and advocate for human rights. Your own office has produced a report detailing, from their perspective, evidence of what is happening in Xinjiang as it relates to the Uyghur genocide. To hold that report to help protect a brutal regime from public accountability.
Remember, this office has no power, right? They have no power. All they do is speak, or all they’re even supposed to do is to speak the truth—do these reports, provide transparency, and speak the truth. And it’s up to countries or governments, and even companies to decide what action they’ll take.
But just to not even do the most basic job of providing transparency and speaking the truth about what’s going on, on such a critical issue, at a very critical time? I just find it incredibly damning for the institution itself. We need these institutions to function, and fulfill their really important core mission. And in instances like this when they fail to do so, I think it should cause all of us to do a lot of critical examination, in understanding this has to be fixed.
Mr. Jekielek: And your thoughts—should the US be part of the UN Human Rights Council, given these realities that you’re describing?
Ambassador Bremberg: Well, when I served as ambassador, the US was not part of the council. The current administration has rejoined the council. My opinion is that I frequently think we get too focused on whether or not we are in the council or not the council, and less focused on what is the council accomplishing? What is the goal? What is the point?
If the goal and if the point is that we’re going to actually use this body in a way that will actually advocate and advance human rights; well, then that’s an important body to be in. If we’re lending our moral leadership and credibility to an organization that claims to speak for and address human rights but is not going to do it, then we should not be involved. So I think that’s the lens we should look at it.
So I think, in my view, we’ve got an upcoming session of the Human Rights Council next month. The US has rejoined the council as a new member this year in 2022. What’s going to happen? I think it would be great to see the US lead an effort to bring resolutions before the Human Rights Council, examining the grotesque human rights violations happening in China today.
If that happens, that will be a great sign that the US rejoining the council has had an outcome, and there had been a reason for it. If that doesn’t happen, I fear that will just lend weakened US moral credibility and give greater legitimacy to a council that is clearly failing in doing its job.
Mr. Jekielek: This theme of moral courage keeps recurring, I think, in everything you’re talking about. Dare I say, it seems in short supply these days? Do you feel we can count on a change there? Or maybe I’ll ask a better question. How do we rekindle that? Because I think most people would agree, it’s not in terribly large supply at the moment.
Ambassador Bremberg: I agree, and I think that’s the big challenge we face. And in terms of what people can do? Don’t watch the Olympic Games. That’s not that hard. I mean, it may be hard for people, because you want to watch the Olympics, and your friends are going to talk about it, and it could be hard. So do we, in our daily lives, find ways to show our own moral courage? It’s those simple acts that I think people can do.
Do you examine where you buy your products from? Read our report about corporate complicity. Look at the companies that have engaged in that, mostly technology companies. Contact those companies. I’m not trying to beat up people, but how much moral courage does it take for you not to watch the Olympics, or not to buy a product made with forced labor from China, or to tell a company, stop engaging in these terrible activities?
If we can’t start taking those actions ourselves, we’re kidding ourselves if we think our political leaders are going to take much more harder actions, if we can’t do this. So I really want to encourage all of us to educate ourselves on what’s going on because you have to be educated. You have to know what’s happening. Then, all of us can find ways in our own daily life to act according to those values that I think we all profess to believe.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m just thinking of this shop in Milford, Pennsylvania called Better World where, basically, every item in the shop—it’s all sorts of things from coffee to furniture to books. None of it is sourced through any dictatorship, including, of course, China. So there’s this kind of thing where you can make buying decisions, and a place like this makes it easy for you.
The question I have is, everything you’ve described—okay, is for people who care, or care a bit, right? But then maybe people just don’t know, or just simply it’s too far away for it to be important. So what about this side of the equation?
Ambassador Bremberg: Well, I think, if you come and look at some of our resources at victimsofcommunism.org, or follow us on Twitter, @VoCommunism, we’ve got great short videos that you can show your friends and family to help educate them about what’s happening in China. Because, as we alluded to earlier, many people seem either apathetic or don’t know or don’t care.
The best, and frankly only solution to that challenge is education; giving people the information. So when our friends talk about the Olympics these next couple of weeks, send them these little videos that we have here at VOC, talking about what’s actually happening in China today. This is the way to get people better educated, informed, and that’s what hopefully will drive our own behavior. Then, ultimately, the kind of policy-making that folks on Capitol hill need to start, need to continue doing.
Mr. Jekielek: As we finish up, I want to talk just a little bit more about communism in the broader sense. Because, of course, there’s a good reason why you focus on China. But you’re actually broadly interested in exposing communism and its victims; hence, the name.
Ambassador Bremberg: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s something. Nazism had its Nuremberg trials. There’s a clear knowledge among people in the world, mostly, that this is an evil ideology that’s done unspeakable things. And communism certainly fits—evil ideology, unspeakable things profiled; but somehow, it’s not known.
You see people in Che Guevara shirts roaming around. You see people, frankly, in Stalin shirts, and crazy things like this, that I can’t even believe. But you don’t see the Hitler version of that, right?
Ambassador Bremberg: Thankfully.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes.
Ambassador Bremberg: But no, you’re exactly right, and that’s what our organization exists for. We were actually chartered by Congress in 1993 to educate Americans and memorialize the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world. I mean, I hope folks let that sink in.
Most Americans don’t know that more than 100 million people were killed by communist regimes around the world. Unfortunately, today, more than one and a half billion people still live under a communist regime.
So we, as the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, do everything we can. We educate, we have an education program. We have teacher education seminars, curricula we help make available to schools. We do a series of educational videos, again, to try to educate people about both the crimes of communism—past and present. I can share with you here in Washington, DC this spring, we will be opening the first-ever Victims of Communism Museum here in Washington, DC.
So we’re very much looking forward to opening our doors to our first visitors this spring where again, we’ll be able to put the real faces of the victims of Communism in front of American visitors, and really, as I said, educate them about such an evil and destructive ideology—both in its incarnation in the Soviet Union which dominated much of the history of the latter part of the 20th century; but then of course, again today, the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Ambassador Bremberg: Thanks so much for having me.
[Narration]: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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