As the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in China are rapidly approaching, so, too, are the calls to boycott the games over its atrocious human rights violations against the Uighur Muslims and its increasingly authoritarian actions against Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and political dissidents.
While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and major corporations have done nothing even while China commits genocide, other activists and the US government are losing patience with the oppressive regime.
Last week the US Congress proposed a bipartisan-backed amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would impose a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics in China, “prohibiting the secretary of state from spending federal money to ‘support or facilitate’ US government employees at the games,” but still allowing US athletes to participate.
This proposal follows similar legislation passed in June which condemned China’s egregious human rights violations, as well as calls from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to boycott the Games back in May over the same issues. Pelosi also drew attention to the fact that many corporations continue to cooperate with China, including in connection with the Olympic Games, and called for an end to such activities.
Members of the US Congress, however, are not the only concerned voices. In recent weeks Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter of the National Basketball Association has become extremely vocal against China. This followed the Asian country literally banning the broadcast of Boston Celtics games in response to Kanter criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping and calling for China to free Tibet.
Kanter, who is originally from Turkey, is already well known for his bravery in speaking out against other dictators, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – an incident that resulted in Turkey aggressively going after the sports star and even canceling his passport while he was abroad. Now, he is using his position as a professional athlete to condemn major sporting companies, such as Nike, that continue to work with China and benefit from what he described as “slave labor.”
Kanter has focused on drawing attention and support for Taiwan, Tibet and the Uyghur Muslims. He has called explicitly for an Olympic boycott, as well. At last week’s NBA matchup with the Washington Wizards, he debuted new sneakers bearing the messages “No Beijing 2022,” “Move the Games” and “No Rights, No Games.”
At a time when the world seems to be largely silent and unwilling to hold China accountable, it’s inspiring to see a professional athlete using his platform to call attention to the horrendous shame that the IOC is bringing to the Olympics by allowing China to host the February Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, while these measures are an important effort to draw attention to China’s crimes, at this point they are also largely symbolic. The IOC and the international community need to band together in order for China to truly feel the heat of such a boycott, and less than 100 days out from the games, it seems highly unlikely that any such action will be taken. But that doesn’t mean we should stop calling for it.
Unquestionably, it is wrong for China to be holding the Olympic Games, especially when it has demonstrated some of the worst human rights abuses in the world, consistently, without any regard for international law and without any remorse.
The Olympic Games in China should be boycotted, and even if they are not, we must continue to call for accountability from China to work toward ending its callous disregard for human rights.
The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative LLC.