The US says China has committed genocide in Xinjiang. Its human rights report says the Uighurs are on target.
More than one million of them were randomly put in jail. They were tortured, men faced forced sterilisation, women were raped, forced into getting abortions, and then forced into labour.
None of this is a secret. The world has known about all of this for a while now. The United States chose to release the report only last month. It went on to slap sanctions on China. But that may not be enough.
So, team Biden is considering another way to embarrass China. Boycotting the Winter Olympics in Beijing. They’re scheduled for 2022. Will the US boycott the games?
They’re considering the possibility. We got the first hint on Tuesday US State Department spokesperson Ned Price was holding a press conference. He said Washington wants to discuss the joint boycott with allies.
He said, “It is something that we certainly wish to discuss and that it is certainly something that we understand that a coordinated approach will be not only in our interests but also in the interests of our allies and partners. So this is one of the issues that are on the agenda both now and going forward, and when we have something to announce, we will be sure to do that.”
He couldn’t have been clearer. The US will sound out its allies. Perhaps ask them to withdraw from the games.
The statement created quite a stir. So much so that the state department came up with a clarification. It said there has been no discussion about a joint boycott with allies.
That doesn’t mean there will be no discussion in the day ahead. This is enough to raise the hackles of Beijing. It deployed Zhao Lijian to respond, the wolf warrior-in-chief.
What did he say? America is politicising the Olympics.
“If the US insists on ignoring the real truth and facts and deliberately uses lies to smear and attack China, this will certainly be doomed to fail. Not only will it damage the US’s reputation and interests, but will also definitely encounter the firm opposition of the Chinese people and a strong response from China.”
Is this an overreaction? Not in the least. The call for boycotting Beijing Olympics isn’t new.
Last year in September, more than 160 human rights groups spoke against China.
They wanted the International Olympic Committee or the IOC to revoke the Winter Olympic Games from China.
Then in October, Uighur rights groups met the IOC. They shared stories of detainees.
They told the Olympic committee about human rights abuses in Xinjiang. And also what’s happening in Tibet and Hong Kong
Their demand was the same: Take the Olympic Games out of Beijing.
How did the IOC respond? Not very favourably. According to one Uighur representative, their concerns were “completely dismissed”.
Zumretay Arki of the World Uighur Congress says the IOC is hiding behind political neutrality. And that the committee is willing to host “genocidal Olympic games”.
“When we met with the IOC in October, we asked them to listen to our voices but instead they completely dismissed our experiences and sufferings,” Arki said.
The pressure is mounting. Not just on China and the International Olympics Committee, but also the sponsors.
Companies like Visa and Coca Cola are the “Olympic partners” for this event. They’re facing criticism. Another sponsor Airbnb is facing tough questions. It is being asked why it is providing lodging in a country that has concentration camps for Uighurs.
For big sponsors, this is a test of their corporate social responsibility.
But exiting won’t be easy. Any boycott is sure to invite a backlash from China.
Ask H&M and Nike: they’ve faced a state engineered boycott in China. That’s because they said they won’t buy cotton from Xinjiang. Moral of the story: boycotting China won’t be easy. China will fight back.
But it cannot fight…