Countries worldwide face deep pressure to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics because of the horrific reports of human rights violations of Uyghurs in China.
In recent years, several civil liberties groups brought to light the deplorable unalienable violations China is committing with the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority of its population mainly concentrated in its north-west part. According to PBS, around 1 million people are trapped in detention camps since 2017.
There are over 85 of them in the region of Xinjiang. At first, the government denied these facilities, however, after satellite footage of their construction with watchtowers and barbed wire fences was released, Beijing admitted to these camps, calling them “re-education centers for Uyghurs.” However, the BBC reports from people that have left them say that these places are not for education but an open path for sexual abuse and forced labor.
Despite how unusual it is to have internal accounts from these “centers,” former detainees and a guard recounted some of their experiences, sharing how these women were constantly sexually assaulted by men and tortured. One of these survivors, Tursunay Ziawudun, currently living in the US, recalled that women were removed from their cells every night and sexually abused by guards.
A Kazakh victim from Xinjiang, detained for 18 months, told the BBC that she was forced to strip Uyghur women naked and restrain them before leaving them alone with their assaulters.
These accounts of abuse were part of the July letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council. In addition, the pressure did not put an alarming light on these actions, but China’s constant opposition to Hong Kong’s democratic ideals and its harsh measurements against its protestors.
Reports have raised stress in countries, especially in the U.S., where around 180 constitutional rights associations and politicians have asked the Biden administration not to participate in the upcoming Olympics. Among the figures is Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, who calls for the U.S. not to take part.
According to St Augustine, Waltz introduced a resolution in February calling for the U.S. to refuse its participation in the games. The congressman expressed his discontent with Beijing and its regime: “The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) at this point is involved in the indisputable cover-up of the pandemic, arresting journalists, while expelling Western journalists trying to cover it, arresting doctors, not allowing the medical centers access to the sites.”
Furthermore, he emphasises that participating in the event would legitimise the regime and its atrocious acts. The congressman expressed his fear of participating in the game as it will fortify the Chinese leader in the future: “I fear with the whitewashing that will go on with Beijing hosting the games, the whitewashing of the genocide and the quelling of freedoms in Hong Kong, how will Chairman Xi be emboldened?”
However, the current administration just wrote that it is not planning on boycotting the games, as Fox News reported. As a State Department spokesperson stated, “Our position on the 2022 Olympics has not changed. We have not discussed and are not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners,”
Nevertheless, Ned Price, State Department spokesman nuanced: “We’re talking about 2022, and we are still in April of 2021; I wouldn’t want to put a time frame on it, but these discussions are underway.”
Despite politicians' and groups' call throughout the country, it is clear that joining the boycott is not Washington’s current plan. Even though the White House has not thoroughly weighed on this matter entirely in terms of their final decision, they have warned the PRC about possible repercussions if the situation was to continue.
Multiple civil rights groups have asked sponsors to withdraw their support for the games in an open letter. However, whether politically or economically, the fear of retaliation is a significant factor that needs to be taken into consideration. As CNBC analysts of the Eurasia Group explained, countries or advertisers that opt out of the 2022 Olympics might face a more significant challenge this time - they can potentially suffer from Beijing’s retaliation: “If a company does not boycott the games, it risks reputational damage with Western consumers,” analysts told CNBC, “but if it does, it risks being shut out of the Chinese market.”
Countries and companies are in front of a ethical and moral dilemma. Weighing these factors plus the public pressure can undoubtedly start a global conversation regarding China’s worldwide influence and countries’ ethical positions globally.
Written by Thairy Lantigua