Human rights groups and associations representing persecuted minorities in China are advocating for a global boycott of the Olympic Games in China in response to the country’s genocide of the ethnic Uyghur people of Xinjiang, its ongoing repression of occupied Tibet, and the countless documented human rights atrocities committing against ethnic and religious minorities in the country. Both the administrations of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden have publicly described the campaign of enslavement, sterilization, rape, and killing of Uyghurs as a “genocide.”
Cruz published an opinion piece at Fox News this week arguing that American athletes deserve the privilege to compete on the Olympic state and that their perceived right to do so overrules the grievances of China’s persecuted ethnic minorities. In the far-left publication the New York Times, which has published features in defense of communism, Romney argued American spectators should boycott the Beijing Olympics, but athletes should still attend. Romney accumulated Olympics experience as the head of the organizing committee for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
The Global Times claimed the two senators were not acting in good faith by defending the Beijing Olympics, but rather had “big calculations.”
“[T]he statements the U.S. senators had made only prove that they have no perspective for the world’s most consequential bilateral relationship,” the state publication declared. “They think they are noble in front of China with an edge in the so-called values, but their indulgence in this very nobility makes them look more and more shallow. In their eyes, using every possible means to suppress China is their way to behave. Politicizing social agendas, be they sports or vaccines, has become a typical approach.”
The propaganda newspaper warned readers not to “have the illusion that the US senators took the wrong script. Rather, as wily politicians, they have big calculations.” The Global Times took offense to Cruz referring to China as a “bully” and encouraging opponents not to “run away” from the Olympics and let China win.
The article also declared any attempts to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics a preemptive failure, noting similar campaigns to prevent the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and failed. While state media referred to the event as a “success,” the 2008 Olympics were mired in controversy over evidence of “rampant cheating” by Chinese judges and athletes. Among the most prominent cases were accusations that China had forced under-aged gymnasts to compete against women. The Olympics bars athletes under 16 from competing, a threshold at least three girls on the Chinese gymnastics team were accused of not meeting, according to the New York Times. The Chinese team won gymnastics gold, prompting global outrage and a call for investigation that never resulted in a thorough look at the team’s documentation. Judging in sports like diving also raised questions of biased local judges giving China an unfair home advantage.
In calling for American athletes to once again compete in Beijing, neither Cruz nor Romney addressed the issue of illegitimate judging and competition on Chinese soil during the capital city’s last hosting gig, or concerns that it may happen once again, inappropriately depriving Americans of earned victories.
Cruz attempted to make the argument that calls for an Olympics boycott impugn the Biden administration with having a poorly planned Chinese policy. His article does not note that Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was the first official to address the possibility of a boycott and the Biden administration has appeared hesitant, rather than eager, to embrace the campaign.
In March, after leaving office, Pompeo more aggressively called for a boycott.
“[W]e cannot allow American athletes to travel to Beijing and reward the Chinese Communist Party all the while that they are doing all of the nasty activity that they’re engaged in, all of the malign activity they’re engaged in around the world,” Pompeo said. “The world ought to unite. The Olympics are an expression of freedom and athletic talent. And to hold them in Beijing is completely inappropriate.”
The Global Times claimed elsewhere in its piece that China “helped” solve the 2008 financial crisis by taking advantage of U.S. treasuries.
“The Olympics are embraced by the world because of its spirit of being faster, higher and stronger. Nowadays, it is one of the few positive factors in the world, and it should not be ruined by some senseless and aimless US politicians,” the editorial concluded.
A coalition of Uyghur, Tibetan, anti-communist, and general human rights groups published an open letter in February calling for the world, not just the United States, to boycott the Beijing Olympics, noting that China’s human rights record worsened significantly after the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
“The IOC [International Olympic Committee] refused to listen in 2008, defending its decision with claims that they would prove to be a catalyst for improved human rights,” the groups’ statement read. “As human rights experts predicted, this decision proved to be hugely misplaced; not only did China’s human rights record not improve, but violations increased substantially without rebuke.”
“Now, in 2021, we find ourselves back in the same position with the IOC who are refusing to act despite the clear evidence of genocide and widespread and worsening human rights failures,” the letter continued.
“Anything less” than a full boycott “will be seen as an endorsement of the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian rule and blatant disregard for civil and human rights,” the letter read.
China has placed as many as 3 million people of Uyghur and other ethnic minority backgrounds in concentration camps since at least 2017, according to multiple investigative reports published by media outlets and state actors in the last four years. Similar camps have surfaced in Tibet, where local populations have resisted Beijing’s attempts to impose Mandarin language and Han Chinese state communism in the region.