Feb 07, 2022

Boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are set to take place from February 4th till February 20th  amid the ongoing Chinese Government's crimes against humanity targeting Uyghur Muslims, and other Turkic Muslims, while also imposing serious crackdowns within Tibet, Hong Kong, and the mainland.


In 2008 China was awarded the chance to host the Olympic Games by the International Olympic Games Committee (IOC) on the claim the human rights situation had improved. However, 2008 was marked by repression against Tibetans who sought accountability for the death of children who died in the Sichuan earthquake, censorship of the media and internet, while also arbitrarily arresting journalists and other human rights workers. Instead of punishing Chinese leaders for breaking their Olympic pledges of improvement, the IOC in 2015 granted Beijing the 2022 Winter Games. Fourteen years later, the situation has not improved, only worsened.

According to the 53-page report “‘Break Their Lineage, Break Their Roots’: China’s Crimes against Humanity Targeting Uyghurs and Other Turkic Muslims,” widespread and systematic attacks committed against the Turkic Muslim population was identified. They included: mass arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, mass surveillance, cultural and religious erasure, separation of families, forced returns to China, forced labor, sexual violence, and violations of reproductive rights. On the 1st of October, the National Day of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) protested throughout various cities in Europe in order to demand the end of the erosion of rights and freedoms of their people.

“Every year, the 1st of October is not a celebratory day for Uyghurs, but rather an occasion to reflect on all that we have lost at the hands of PRC governments – from our rights and freedoms to the lives of our loved ones”, WUC President, Dolkun Isa, said. “At the same time, this day has become symbolic for oppressed communities from China to join in solidarity and once more call for an end to the Uyghur genocide and China’s other human rights crimes”.

In addition, in the case of three-time Chinese Olypian Peng Shuai, the conflict between the rights of citizens, including world-class athletes, and the privileges of autocratic governments means to escape accountability was shown. The tennis player was silenced after she accused a former top official of sexual abuse. The Women's Tennis Association called off its tournaments in China, while the IOC’s investigation into matters undermined the committee's commitment to human rights. Those participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics will also be placed at risk if they express their views publicly on human rights within China.

As observed in the Chinese officials making it clear that athletes that express any form of political behavior or speech that goes against the Chinese laws and regulations will be subject to certian punishment. Although, last July the IOC had lifted the Charter’s Rule 50 which barred political, religious, and racial propaganda at Olympic sites and venues. Allowing various athletes to protest against racism and other issues during the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. At the same time athletes, coaches, and other support staff are more likely to be subjected to mass state surveillance, particularly monitoring of digital communications. America advised athletes to use disposable burner phones when in China and leave their own at home, as they must install the My2022 health-monitoring application making their data accessible to China. Proving, the games are Beijing’s hope to sports wash its human rights record clean.

Prosecution against the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association were also held against vulnerable populations including, lawyers Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, the citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, the Tibetan monk, and writer Go Sherab Gyatso, and public health activists known as the Changsha Funeng group; and Arbitrary detention, torture, and forcible disappearance of human rights defenders, including Gao Zhisheng and Guo Feixiong. 

In addition to this tightening of repression in China, the mass surveillance of Tibetans, and the deprivation of South Mongolians of the right to speak in their mother tongue as China intensifies its crackdown on any cultural differences throughout the country.

The IOC has shown no inclination that it will challenge the Chinese Government's crimes nor stop the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. On the contrary, the IOC seems hell-bent on towing the Chinese government line on any question raised towards their acts, even intervening in favour of the Chinese government during the Peng Shuai disappearance. This suggests that the IOC has lost its legitimacy as a governing body for the Olympics.

The failure to condemn the actions of the Chinese Government by the IOC has allowed continued violations of human rights of people throughout China. Therefore, while the UNPO recognizes the ethos of the 2022 Winter Games it calls upon all actors involved to recognize the current genocide of the Uyghur Muslims and the serious violations of human rights within China, in order to hold China accountable for its actions. UNPO calls for a full, not merely diplomatic boycott of these games, by broadcasters, athletes and officials.

In addition, questions must be asked of all sports governing bodies given the advent of sportswashing and the now endemic cases of bribery, corruption, and quasi-state capture of these supposedly neutral bodies that have no legitimacy with ordinary sports fans. While sport and politics inevitably go hand in hand in some cases, the growing appetite for using sports events as a facade when a legally recognized genocide or human rights abuses are taking place in the same country shows that great change is needed at this level.