With any sporting event being a complicated process during COVID, it is surprising that the U.S. potential boycotting of the Winter Olympics in fact has nothing to do with COVID at all. Yet, it has been dubbed a diplomatic boycott in relation to human rights issues currently present in China.
Don’t’ worry, this specification doesn’t have anything to do with the athletes themselves, but to do with the fact that no official delegation would be commuting to China to represent the US. The government did not want to take away from the extensive work that athletes have been putting in for years to compete at the Winter Olympics. Athletes are encouraged to continue on their incredible journeys with the full support of the government and of course, the country.
Beijing, very unhappy with the decision, has already announced in retaliation that they would “resolute countermeasures” to make it clear that a sporting event is no place for political upheaval. However, it seems the US government will not be folding on their decision. Yet why the decision that may see other countries following suit including New Zealand, who had already announced they would not send a delegate, as well as Australia and the UK? The answer is simple yet scary, genocide.
The Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority, live in the region Xinjiang. 11 million reside in what is also named East Turkestan, which sits on a large piece of land and borders Pakistan and Kazakhstan. They speak a Turkic dialect and of course, hold a separate cultural identity from the Han Chinese.
While they reside on their own piece of land, the Chinese Government, or more specifically Xi Jinping’s government, perceives the people as a threat. This was due to the Uyghurs searching for either greater autonomy or a separate state. This moved the Chinese government to launch a “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism”, which resulted on the surface, a suppression of movement and communication of the Uyghurs people, but below the surface, potentially mass detention, forced sterilization, rape and other bias abuses. These accusations have been rejected by Chinese officials, however, since 2017, satellite images have been able to show 380 new detention facilities that can hold up to 1,400 civilians. It is believed the Uyghurs people are being “arbitrarily detained” in these “transformations through education” facilities.
Now, China tries to put some hush on the topic by initially dismissing the decision as irrelevant, then stating that COVID restrictions would most likely halt officials from joining anyway and finally censoring the whole topic on popular social media platform Weibo.
Will the U.S. budge? It is unlikely. With both republicans and democratic lawmakers praising the decision, it looks like US delegates will be staying home this time around. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House of Representatives Speaker, stated “While we must support and celebrate our athletes, America – and the world – cannot give our official imprimatur to these games or proceed as if there is nothing wrong with holding the Olympics in a country perpetrating genocide and mass human rights violations.”
While sports and politics usually do not mix, it looks like this time around, it will.
The Winter Olympics will be held from February 4th to the 20th in 2022.