By UCA News
By Benedict Rogers*
(UCA News) — The 2022 Winter Olympics will open in Beijing, hosted by a regime accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, widespread and systematic torture, grave and flagrant violations of international treaty obligations, the disappearance of critics including a former world number one tennis player and campaigns of infiltration, intimidation, influence and espionage abroad.
On top of that, the Chinese Communist Party regime has threatened to “punish” international athletes who criticize it.
And let’s not forget, it was this regime — through its cover-up and mendacity — that gave the world the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead of repressing coronavirus, Beijing repressed the whistleblowers who tried to sound the alarm about it — the doctors and citizen journalists — and failed to live up to its obligations to alert the world in a timely manner.Get UCA News in your Inbox
The Winter Games — now appropriately known as the “Genocide Games” — open just under two months after an international, independent tribunal chaired by one of Britain’s most experienced lawyers, Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC, concluded that Xi Jinping’s regime is committing genocide against the Uyghurs and other Muslim-majority peoples in Xinjiang.
Sir Geoffrey led the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic, so he knows a thing or two about atrocity crimes. And the Uyghur Tribunal’s conclusion is shared by the United States administration and the parliaments of the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, Czech Republic and most recently France.
In Hong Kong, democracy, autonomy, human rights and basic freedoms have been dismantled over the past two years, press freedom has come under severe assault with the recent closure of pro-democracy and independent media and the jailing of journalists, and over 50 civil society groups have been forced to close.
Former elected pro-democracy legislators are in jail, and most recently the last bastion of freedom and justice, the legal sector, has been muzzled, with the new chair of the Bar Association, Victor Dawes, declaring that the professional body should not discuss politics.
Even the release of popular pro-democracy activist Edward Leung after four years in jail was a deliberately quiet, discreet affair — because, quite rightly, no one wants to draw attention to him in a way that might risk giving this brutal regime any excuse to send him back behind bars. He and his family appealed for privacy, and their desire deserves to be respected.
I used to live in Hong Kong. Now, most of my friends in Hong Kong are in prison, on trial, in exile or keeping their heads down.
In Tibet, repression continues; for Christians in China, persecution goes on; and this past week Falun Gong practitioner and award-winning artist Xu Na was jailed for eight years for reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the past decade, Xi Jinping’s regime has launched an all-out assault on civil society activists, human rights defenders, lawyers, citizen journalists, bloggers and dissidents. Christian lawyer and citizen journalist Zhang Zhan languishes in jail, in grave danger, while publisher Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish national kidnapped from Thailand, remains in detention and prominent lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s whereabouts are unknown. And Beijing continues to increase its threats to Taiwan.
And, let us not forget, prior to leading the Uyghur Tribunal that found evidence of genocide in Xinjiang, Sir Geoffrey Nice led the China Tribunal that found beyond reasonable doubt that the Chinese regime was forcibly extracting human organs from prisoners of conscience on a mass scale, that this was a crime against humanity, and that anyone engaging with the regime that was doing this must remember that they are dealing with “a criminal state.”
It is that criminal state that will host the Winter Olympics in a fortnight. And so it is not surprising that an increasing number of democratic governments do not wish to be a part of it. The United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium, New Zealand and Japan have declared a diplomatic boycott, and others should follow suit.
The truth is that it is quite abhorrent that a regime with this record was ever awarded the Winter Olympics, and it is outrageous that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to consider relocating the Games. IOC president Thomas Bach should hang his head in shame. He has blood on his hands and no matter how good the snow is, how crisp the ice is, he will never be able to wash it off.
Many people pleaded with the IOC in recent years to reconsider and, had they listened, they could easily have relocated the Games to a country with an ability to host and with a clean record: Canada, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, the United States, Korea, Japan or any number of other countries with the facilities and conditions suitable for the Games could have done so, at reasonably short notice. But obviously not now, at two weeks’ notice: even for an idealist like me, that would be absurd.
So, what do we do? I suggest three things.
First, a spectator boycott of the Games. Most overseas spectators will not be able to go anyway due to Covid-19, but I would advise we should not even watch on television. Instead, spend the time watching documentaries about the human rights violations against the Uyghurs, in Tibet and in Hong Kong. Search for them on Google, find them on Netflix, look for them on Vimeo — and educate yourself about Xi Jinping’s record of atrocities.
Second, a consumer boycott of the Games’ corporate sponsors. Don’t drink Coca-Cola, don’t stay in Airbnb accommodation, don’t buy Panasonic or Procter and Gamble products. Write to these brands that are household names and tell them why you are unhappy with them.
And third, use the spotlight that is shining on host country China in the media to expose the regime’s appalling human rights record. Join protests, phone in to radio talk shows, urge commentators to expose the horrors in China while the world’s media is watching.
I have never called for a sporting boycott because I recognize that for those athletes who are competing, this is a moment in their lives for which they have trained and prepared for years. All I would do is to appeal to the consciences of individual athletes.
And I would say two things. If you do go to Beijing, stay safe. Take a clean phone. Be aware that you will be watched. Don’t put yourself in danger. But as soon as you are out of China after the Games and can safely do so, please use your platform to speak out. And, for those who choose not to compete, please speak out now and say why.
Beijing should never, ever have been allowed to host the Winter Olympics. The Games should have been moved. But now that they are about to start, let us seize this moment to turn the spotlight onto the brutal regime and its criminal record. Let’s cause maximum pain and embarrassment for Xi Jinping and ensure that the world sees the blood that stains the snow and ice of these Genocide Games. Let’s not allow the Games to proceed in silence. Let’s make maximum noise, for the cause of justice.
* Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, senior analyst for East Asia at the international human rights organization CSW, co-founder and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and a board member of the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign. He is the author of six books, including three books about Myanmar, especially his latest, “Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads”. His faith journey is told in his book “From Burma to Rome: A Journey into the Catholic Church” (Gracewing, 2015). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.