In July 2015, the International Olympic Committee voted to make Beijing the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics, beating out Kazakhstan after a late withdrawal from Oslo after the Norwegian government refused to cater to the IOC’s exorbitant demands. At the time, the Beijing selection was mocked as a classic example of IOC self-dealing.
Of course, China’s relationship with the United States and countries aligned with us has soured in the intervening years—and for good reason, too. China has clearly stepped into its own as a regional bully, accelerating its policy of building and occupying islands in the South China Sea and challenging freedom of navigation in international waters.
It’s not unreasonable to say that these acts alone may not fully justify the exceptional step of boycotting the Olympic games. After all, the United States did not seriously contemplate boycotting the Sochi games in 2014 or Beijing’s summer games in 2008. In fact, the Olympics have been held in countries running the geopolitical gamut without triggering a serious boycott in decades. Surely, the argument goes, if the United States is willing only to participate in Olympic games’ hosted by our friends and allies, the Olympics will cease to bring the world together across those lines that divide it. That could have the ultimate effect of just ruining the entire enterprise, depriving the world of a truly global sporting competition.
Today, however, the notion that China is an unsavory regime like any other can no longer be seriously embraced. In the past few years, China has taken two enormous actions each of which in itself makes it difficult for a nation with any conscience at all to justify sending an Olympic delegation.
For one, China has ended Hong Kong’s autonomous status in a brazen violation of its own treaty. It has ended any real democratic elements in the city, hollowed out the distinct legal system, brutally suppressed and imprisoned dissenters from these moves, and is continuing to drag Hong Kong further under the umbrella of the Chinese Communist Party.
Perhaps even more troublingly, China was, is, and will continue to carry out genocide against its largely Muslim Uyghur minority population in the Xinjiang province. On top of their persecution among the general Uyghur population, they have established a network of concentration camps throughout the region. Chinese state propaganda about ‘vocational training centers’ are counteracted by a flood of information, including witness testimony. Survivors of the prison camps have told of the systemic torture, rape, brainwashing, and sterilization that they endured. Our State Department declared China’s oppression of the Uyghurs to be genocide under Secretary Pompeo. The declaration was rightly reaffirmed by Secretary Blinken.
The United States, and indeed any country, ought to be reticent to boycott such international events such as the Olympics. Reticence is no longer enough, however, to excuse attending the Beijing 2022 games. No, that would require disinterest in the overthrow of democracy and the carrying out of genocide. Whatever standard must be met for America to take the step of boycotting the games, surely it has been met.
An American Olympic boycott would be unusual, but it is not without precedent. In response to the Soviet invasion and continued occupation of Afghanistan, President Carter announced an American boycott of the 1980 Summer games. Dozens of countries followed suit and the record low number of participating countries and missing top talent led to a lackluster competition that cast a dark pallor over what the USSR had expected to be a great national moment. There was no raising of the military stakes because a diplomatic move, no matter how effective, is completely peaceful. This is an American success story which should be repeated.
Unlike the Summer games, which feature competitive teams hailing from every continent, the Winter Olympics are dominated by a familiar suite of countries in Europe, the Pacific Rim and North America. An American boycott by itself would drop the quality of the games. If allies such as Canada and others joined in on the boycott Beijing would be left with an empty shell of the Olympics. Russia could wind up the only participating country with top talent and they can’t even compete under their own flag because of a doping scandal.
The IOC has chosen to disregard China’s evils. If American values mean anything at all, we have a national obligation not to follow suit and to boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympic games.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.