Calls Grow in Congress to Boycott Winter Olympics Unless They’re Moved From China

Patrick Goodenough | February 16, 2021 | 4:27am EST
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The giant portrait on Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Gate overlooks people waving Chinese and Olympic flags ahead of Beijing's hosting of the summer games, in 2008.  (Photo by Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)
The giant portrait on Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Gate overlooks people waving Chinese and Olympic flags ahead of Beijing's hosting of the summer games, in 2008. (Photo by Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

( – The Biden administration has given no indication it would support a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, but the pressure is building – along with warnings from an influential Chinese Communist Party figure that China will “sanction” any country that backs a boycott.

On Monday, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) introduced a resolution calling on the U.S. Olympic Committee to withdraw from the Feb. 4-20, 2022 games unless the International Olympic Committee (IOC) finds an alternative host.

The move follows an earlier one by a group of Republican senators led by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, expressing the sense of the Senate that the IOC should reopen the process for prospective hosts to make bids, to enable the games to be “hosted by a country that recognizes and respects human rights.” The resolution is backed by GOP Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Todd Young (Ind.)

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) does not support calls for nations to stay away from Beijing.

“We oppose Games boycotts because they have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues,” it said in an earlier statement. “We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and political issues.”

USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons last week accepted the formal invitation sent by the IOC.

China’s capital city was awarded the hosting rights back in 2015, seven years after it hosted the summer Olympics. It becomes the first city ever to host both the summer and winter games.

The 2008 event also attracted calls for a boycott by campaigners drawing attention to the CCP’s human rights policies at home and support for repressive regimes in Sudan and Burma. But President George W. Bush argued that U.S. athletes taking part would be “ambassadors of liberty,” and himself attended the opening ceremony.

When bidding for the hosting rights in 2001, Beijing had pledged to improve its human rights record. But in the runup to the 2008 games more than 100 journalists, cyber-dissidents and bloggers were imprisoned.

This time, boycott advocates – including lawmakers in several countries, and a coalition of more than 180 human rights groups – are pointing to a significantly worsened situation, including mass human rights violations against minority Muslims in Xinjiang, and the CCP’s controversial handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

“The IOC refused to listen in 2008, defending its decision with claims that they would prove to be a catalyst for improved human rights,” the coalition of human rights groups said in a letter sent to the IOC last week.

“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.”

Introducing his resolution on Monday, Waltz said, “The world cannot legitimize the CCP’s acts of genocide in Xinjiang, destruction of the democratic rights of Hong Kong, and dangerous suppression of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan that cost lives by sending delegations to Beijing.”

The text calls on the IOC to transfer the games to a location outside China, failing which the U.S. and other countries should boycott.

So far, the White House says there are no plans to support a boycott.

“We’re not currently talking about changing our posture or our plans as it relates to the Beijing Olympics,” press secretary Jen Psaki said on February 3. “We consult, of course, closely with allies and partners at all levels to define our common concerns and establish a shared approach. But this is – there’s no discussion underway of a change in our plans from the United States at this point in time.”

On Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price pointed out that the event was still a year off.

"We are consulting closely with our allies and our partners at all levels to define our common concerns and to establish our shared approach to China. I wouldn’t want to get ahead of things,” he said. “We are in early 2021. We will have plenty of time to talk about 2022 as – in the ensuing months.”

‘China will seriously sanction’

Last week the leader of Britain’s fourth-largest party, Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrats, called on the British government to boycott the games, which he said would be “used as a propaganda tool for a regime committing genocide.”

In response the editor-in-chief of the CCP mouthpiece Global Times, Hu Xijin, warned on Twitter that “China will seriously sanction any country that follows such a call.”

Davey then asked the Chinese Embassy in London to clarify Hu’s tweet, saying retaliatory sanctions “would be an act of international bullying, and immensely damaging to China’s standing in the world.”

Hu hit back in a column on Monday, accusing Davey of behaving “hysterically and insanely.”

“China, as the host country, will do the righteous thing by sanctioning any country that thwarts the Beijing Winter Olympics,” he reiterated. “I believe by then the Chinese people will back their government and the people across the world will support China to punish the evil forces who turn the Olympics into a geopolitical stage.”

The U.S. led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the previous year, and the Soviet Union and its allies reciprocated by staying away from the Los Angeles games four years later.

See also:
On Eve of Trump’s Departure, US Becomes the World’s First Gov’t to Label China’s Actions ‘Genocide’ (Jan. 20, 2021)


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