What you need to know
The IOC chief opposes a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, saying it only hurts athletes.
The International Olympic Committee said last week it opposes a boycott of the Beijing Winter Games, turning down calls from activists citing China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and mass detentions in Xinjiang.
Thomas Bach, head of the IOC, said the committee is not a “super world government” that could solve issues for which “not a United Nations security council, no G7, no G20 has a solution.”
Bach, re-elected for the second and last term last Wednesday, dismissed the attempt at the end of a three-day IOC session. He also stressed the IOC’s political neutrality and that the committee is committed to strengthening human rights “.”
“Human rights and labor rights and others are and/or will be part of the host city contract and on this we are working very closely with the organising committee,” he said. “We are also monitoring...for instance, supply chains, labor rights, freedom of press and many other issues.”
China’s capital is set to host the Winter Games in the upcoming year after staging the Summer Games in 2008. The IOC has been criticized for granting the country the games given its since then. Amnesty International foresees that the Olympic Charter’s human rights goals will be ignored once again in 2022.
The IOC, adopting the chater, vows to ensure “the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms” without discrimination based on race, religions, political opinions, and so on.
Government officials in Britain, Canada, and the United States have pushed for a boycott, and rights groups have started a “No Beijing 2022” campaign to countries to refuse to attend the games, which “embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent,” groups said in a joint letter.
In early February, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called the Beijing games “a significant contribution China makes to the Olympic Movement.”
“All winter games lovers are looking forward to taking part in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics,” he said. “All preparation work for the games are well underway, which have won full recognition from the international community including the IOC.”
Wang warned against “disrupting” Beijing’s plan to hold the games by calling for a boycott. “Such actions will not be supported by the international community and will never succeed,” he added. Global Times it would be a “farce” for Western countries to lead such a campaign.
To date, no country has yet declared a boycott for the games. But the state-run newspaper published an editorial last month, threatening countries that follow the call to expect sanctions.
“If any country is encouraged by extremist forces to take concrete actions to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, China will definitely retaliate fiercely,” the article reads. “China certainly has the resources and means to do that.”
China has a history of using trade as a tool of coercion. Last year alone, Australia saw China imposing punitive measures on its coal, , and barley. Taiwan’s were outright banned earlier this month after China claimed to have found pests in recent shipments.
With its economic clout, China is pressuring not only foreign governments but also international organizations, including the IOC. In 2017, e-commerce giant Alibaba a 11-year-deal, worth over US$1 billion, to become the leading sponsor of the Olympic games.
The agreement came as a surprise to Japan. Marukawa Tamayo, the minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the IOC had not consulted the Japanese government in regards to the use of Chinese vaccines, which are not yet approved in the country. Japanese athletes would not take them, she added.
Marukawa said there is no change to Japan’s “principle of not making vaccinations a prerequisite” to participation in the summer games.
Wu’er Kaixi, a longtime democracy activist, the IOC as “playing the role of a pawn in China’s ‘vaccine diplomacy.’” He said the Chinese government has been trying to avoid taking responsibility for the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic by having international organizations speak for themselves.
The vaccine deal with the IOC is also likely to help China deflect widespread criticism of its human rights record, the New York Times reports, including the suppression of basic freedoms in Hong Kong and the abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
As early as 1956, countries have been using Olympic boycott as a gesture of protest. But Bach, the IOC chief, a spokesman for West German athletes following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, said such a move achieves nothing.
“The Soviet army withdrew in 1989, so it really served nothing but punishing their own athletes and led to a counter-boycott in Los Angeles (in 1984).”
With activists calling on both leaders and athletes to boycott the Winter games in Beijing, Bach stressed, “Athletes would be the ones suffering.”
TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)
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