The year is 2022. In the depths of a frosty Beijing winter, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) stands erect for the Chinese national anthem and allows himself a wry smile as he surveys the crowd before him.
Despite all of the hand-wringing and pious rhetoric about human rights, the West has folded yet again like a cheap suit. Dignitaries from around the world, international media and athletes have all too predictably left their consciences behind on the tarmac and jetted off for the Beijing Winter Games.
It is a triumph for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP): Beijing becomes the first city in the world to host both a summer and winter Olympics.
Just as Beijing 2008 served as a vehicle to legitimize the CCP on the international stage, Beijing 2022 is being similarly politicized by the CCP — but to legitimize Xi’s rule and to cement his grip on power.
It does not have to be this way. Democratic nations around the world can — and must — organize a coordinated boycott of Beijing 2022 to voice their abhorrence at the industrial-scale human rights abuses being carried out under Xi’s regime.
A recent analysis of satellite imagery shows that despite the increased international attention, concentration camps in Xinjiang are actually expanding in number, while there is growing evidence of a program of forced sterilization and abortions designed to eliminate the Uighur population.
Meanwhile, the cultural genocide continues apace with mosques still being torn down and compulsory education in Mandarin Chinese recently extended to Inner Mongolia.
The world must do more.
Uighur and rights groups are attempting to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to revoke its awarding of the Games to Beijing. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen.
The CCP reneged on its promises to improve human rights almost as soon as the curtain fell on Beijing 2008 — and the situation today is far worse than it was then — yet the IOC still awarded the 2022 Winter Games to China.
A coordinated boycott is the only solution.
Critics say that Olympic boycotts never work. The boycott by the US and its allies of the 1980 Summer Olympics failed to halt the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics did nothing to diminish the power of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
All a boycott achieves is damage athletes’ careers, they say.
The counterpoint to that argument is to examine what would happen if there is not a boycott: It would be a personal triumph for Xi — a tangible endorsement of his brand of ultra-authoritarianism that would silence the last vestiges of resistance within China.
Above all, it will signal a tacit acquiescence by the global community of Xi’s trampling over international law in Hong Kong, and the CCP’s genocidal policies in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia.
While a boycott is unlikely to stop the genocide, Xi, sensing that the international community has no “red lines,” would feel vindicated.
Like Putin before him — who just days after Sochi’s closing ceremony sent unmarked soldiers into Crimea — Xi would turn his sights to the India-China border — and Taiwan.
The disruption to the careers of a relatively small number of people, when weighed against the plight of the more than 1 million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities incarcerated in concentration camps would be a small price to pay — and it might just help to check Xi’s power by shaming China on the international stage.
The world has been here before: We must not repeat the mistake of the 1936 “Hitler Olympics.” Democratic nations must unite to prevent the appalling spectacle of a “Xi Olympics” in 2022.
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