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The Genocide Games

Why we cannot allow China to use the winter Olympics to cover their actions

By Matthew Running, Foundation for Uyghur Freedom

Photo courtesy of Tomas Roggero via Flickr


The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to use the Winter Olympics to “sportswash” their human rights abuses. We should use it to tell the world about the horrific crimes the CCP is committing. With many countries focusing on China during the period of the Winter Olympics, let us not allow China to hide what is happening.


Middle Eastern countries use sports to gain soft power and improve their global image. They want people to think about the sporting events in the country, not the human rights violations. We see this with Formula 1 in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, and now Qatar, which will be hosting the World Cup this year. When we talk about China and the Winter Olympics, we’re talking about the Winter Olympics being used to mask the genocide of the Uyghurs; the further oppression of the Tibetans; their increased illegal control over Hong Kong; and their constant threatening of invading Taiwan.


These games have been linked to the 1936 games of Berlin, and it is a fair comparison. Hitler used the Games to show off Nazi Germany and the German race after enacting the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 to separate Jews from society. President Xi Jinping is using the games to be recognised internationally as a world-leading country while he commits acts of genocide towards the Uyghurs.


Just a few short months ago, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC confirmed at the Uyghur Tribunal that what is happening to the Uyghurs falls under the category of genocide. The Uyghur Tribunal was an independent tribunal in London, set up to examine whether genocide was taking place. Sir Geoffrey Nice received evidence of leaked CCP documents that had Xi Jinping’s name on them, confirming he was a part of the planning and authorising of the concentration camps. The camps, which see Uyghurs having to fall under CCP control through torture and endure forced labour; which see Uyghur women being forcibly sterilised, and Uyghur Muslims having to denounce their faith towards Islam. The stories of events and evidence to back it are horrific, yet the IOC and the world allowing the games to go ahead in the same country are a joke towards the so-called ‘Olympic Spirit’.


Now, while some may argue it would have been a logistical nightmare to move the games last minute, that is not necessarily true. Vancouver and Canada openly said they would host the Games last minute instead of China. They argued that it is not within the ‘Olympic spirit’ to have the games in a country that is seen committing countless human rights violations and genocide. Canada has the facilities and venues to host the games on short notice but the IOC refused to accept the offer. It is not like these are the first games that China has hosted. When they hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008, it was assumed they would open up afterwards and stop their oppression. Instead, since 2008, they’ve doubled down on their oppression towards the Uyghurs, Hongkongers, Tibetans & others such as the Falun Gong and Christians.


In fairness to the international community, there have been efforts of boycotts of the games not to legitimise the games. This has mainly been through the acts of diplomatic boycotts. Nation-states choose to not send elected officials, members of government and royal families to the events. However, the athletes go, meaning the main attraction of the events still goes ahead. This is not an attack on the athletes as they have worked their entire life for this moment. It is not their fault that the IOC offered the games to a genocidal state. However, if they deem it safe enough, they should draw attention to the human rights issues when possible, so the world can hear what is happening.


The world boycotted South Africa—athletes, officials and events—due to the apartheid. Under the Gleneagles Agreement, countries agreed not to compete in South Africa until they abolished apartheid. The full athletic boycott worked: it was one of the factors that ended apartheid. However, China being the second most powerful country in the world means countries like the UK are too afraid to stand up.


With these games going ahead in China, countries are legitimising the CCP’s actions, the actions of genocide. When everyone currently looks at China, it is up to us individuals to reveal its true image to the world. We cannot let them legitimise their acts of genocide.