Why does the world need to boycott China’s 2022 Winter Olympics?


China is set to host the next Winter Olympics in Beijing starting February 4, 2022, but China’s plans for the games seem to be in jeopardy as over 180 international human rights group have called for a boycott of the upcoming event. The development comes in view of mounting evidence of Beijing carrying out human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in occupied regions of East Turkistan, Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Inner Mongolia.

Having signed a joint letter condemning the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, human rights groups have stated that allowing the games to continue would embolden China vis-a-vis its appalling human rights abuses in the mainland China and its forcibly occupied territories as well as its destabilising actions in the neighbourhood under the expansionist ideology of Xi Jinping. The World Uighur Congress has even dubbed the games as “genocide Olympics”. 

China’s unprovoked stand-off with India at the border in 2020 has also led to a growing anxiety among the international community vis-a-vis China’s aggressive tactics and thereby voicing for boycotting the Beijing Olympics as a symbol of their disapproval of China’s coercive, inhumane, expansionist and unilateral actions. Western liberal democracies, like America and the United Kingdom, have also hinted that they are likely to boycott the 2022 Games. However, India, which has been forced by China into an uncalled standoff at borders, has not yet declared its stance on the 2022 Olympics. 

In recent years and months, China’s abhorrent treatment of its citizens, human rights violations in occupied territories and unilateral, expansionist activities in the region including in south china sea, as well as Indo-China standoff, have been the cause of increasing criticism against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and President Xi Jinping from the international community. Xi Jinping, in the recent past, has openly flouted human rights norms, while at the same time, tried to assume the mantle of leadership of the international community. 

Dorjee Tseten of Students for a Free Tibet has compared the upcoming games to the 1936 Nazi Olympics of Germany. The games were held in Berlin in view of legitimizing Hitler’s genocide against the Jewish people. The games successfully aided in bolstering the image of the Nazi regime. He goes on to add that this is why the international community must come together to boycott the 2022 Beijing Games to show China that their actions are being noticed by the world and that they will not get away with it.

The current Chinese regime is not a normal dictatorship. The Chinese government’s actions against ethnic minorities like the Uighurs in occupied East Turkestan (Xinjiang in China), Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong, etc make it the worst human rights abuser in the entire world. 

The 2008 Summer Games allowed Beijing to show itself as a significant power on the world stage and it hopes that the upcoming 2022 games can cement that perception. The upcoming Olympic Games will merely become a propaganda showcase for the Chinese regime involving a grand opening ceremony, both overtly and covertly glorifying China and other promotional set-pieces. A boycott by the international community would deprive China of a much-needed propaganda win and also draw attention to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses on ethnic minorities. The boycott would also impose an economic price on China for its behaviour as the funds and resources it has already spent on the upcoming games would go in vain.

Rights groups have also stated that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should find an alternate host for the games. Chinese dissident and human rights lawyer Teng Biao has suggested that boycotting states can also simultaneously pressure the IOC to revoke China’s right to host such games in the future. Biao has also expressed his disappointment at the IOC refusing to acknowledge China’s gross human rights violations. Revoking China and other repressive regimes ability to hold games in the future would be in line with IOC’s principles since the Olympic charter calls for “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”.

China’s human rights abuses and its mistreatment of minorities have only worsened since it attained the go-ahead from the IOC to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics. The most serious and visible violations of human rights by the Chinese regime have been perpetrated against the Turkic Uighur Muslim population that reside in occupied East Turkistan. Over a million Uighurs have been arbitrarily detained by China in internment camps that China calls “vocational training centres”. Within these centres, detailed Uighurs are exposed to sexual violence, sterilizations and forced labour like picking cotton from fields by hand. China has also for years oppressed and mistreated the people of occupied Tibet, by destroying their monasteries, forcing them away from their traditional homes and occupations, demonizing His Holiness the Dalai Lama and trying to erase Tibetan culture.

In addition, China’s aggressive behaviour in the neighbourhood has also amplified since the approval of the IOC to hold the next winter Olympics in China. This is evident from China’s self-invoked dispute with Japan over the ownership and control of the Senkakus islands. Beijing has also escalated its aggressive posturing in the waters surrounding Taiwan. List of such aggression goes on, and not to surprise, China has self-inflicted disputes with every next country in its neighbourhood.

China’s continued unilateral aggression against India on the Indo-China border is yet another example of China’s expansionist agenda. These, coupled with China’s abysmal track record on human rights, have made countries around the world wary of China, and one of the ways that the international community can tighten the noose around China is boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Most of the medal winners for the past winter Olympic games are from liberal democracies who have been the most vocal about China’s actions against ethnic minorities in recent months. On 22 July 2019, Twenty Two nations, primarily liberal democracies such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany and the UK, signed a letter addressed to the United Nations Human Rights Council, wherein they expressed grave concern over the Chinese government’s brutal repression of Uighur Muslims in occupied East Turkistan and demanded that China “refrain from the arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement of Uighurs and other Muslim and minority communities in Xinjiang”. 

The prominent figures in the UK, who have condemned the 2022 Beijing Olymics include Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Labour MP Chris Bryant, a member of the foreign affairs select committee and a former junior foreign minister. Davey has said that there is mounting evidence of genocide occurring in China and it is clear that the UK and the whole world must stand against Beijing’s psychosis and use every available tool to stop it. Bryant added that all five categories of genocide behaviour as per the Genocide Convention can be witnessed in occupied East Turkestan and thus the international community should stand up to China’s continued human rights abuses. Davey added that in the face of genocide and atrocities, the likes of which was being carried out in China, the Olympics and the Paralympic games cannot be separated from politics. 

On 15 February 2020, Republican Representative Mike Waltz from the US introduced a resolution that urged the US to boycott the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Waltz has stated that he cannot in ‘good conscience’ allow American athletes to take part in an event that is being hosted by a “brutal dictatorship”. The resolution by Waltz was preceded by another resolution submitted in the US Senate by Senator Rick Scott on behalf of himself and six other senators. The resolution stated that the Chinese Communist Party was genocidal in nature and urged the IOC to change the venue of the upcoming games so they could be held in a country that ‘recognizes and respects human rights. The other Senators that supported the resolution were Senators Mike Braun, Marco Rubio, Todd Young, Tom Cotton, Jim Inhofe and Marsha Blackburn.

If US joins the league of the 22 countries boycotting the upcoming 2022 winter Beijing games, then that would mean that the top athletes and medal contenders would not be participating in the event. These 22 countries plus the US represent 76 per cent of the medal winners from the last Winter Olympics – the 2018 PyeongChang Games. Even if these 23 countries are the only ones that decide to boycott the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing then it would be reduced to an imitation of the Olympics.

India has even more reason to boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games than most of the countries across the globe. China’s unprovoked aggressive actions along the Indian border in 2020 resulted in the martyrdom of 20 Indian soldiers. While China continues its aggressive actions at the border and encroaching on Indian land, it insists that the border issues between the two countries should not affect the bi-lateral diplomatic ties.

China’s aggressive posturing as well as its continued human rights abuses have put the whole world on the edge. Due to lack of apt response to atrocities committed by China, Xi Jinping believes that he has a free reign to act howsoever he wishes. However, a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics from liberal democracies and western countries will allow the international community to show China that its actions have consequences and it can not continue its human rights abuses and aggressive actions against other nations. And, India definitely should join the league of boycotters. 


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