The 2022 Winter Olympic games are currently slated to be held in Beijing, China, next February. But the voices demanding that they be moved to a more freedom-friendly venue are growing louder.
Last September, a coalition of 160 human rights groups called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to “reverse its mistake in awarding Beijing the honor of hosting the Winter Olympics.”
The Trump administration also pushed for the IOC to move the games, according to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo now wants the United States to boycott the upcoming games entirely.
Two weeks ago the Canadian Parliament joined the chorus, urging the IOC to strip Beijing of the right to host the 2022 Games unless it ends its genocide against the Uighurs.
The ongoing Uighur genocide — carried out by mass incarceration, forced abortion, and modern-day slavery — tops the list of what Pompeo calls the Chinese Communist Party’s “nasty activity.” But it certainly does not exhaust it.
Holding the Olympics in Beijing is an insult to every Tibetan nationalist, every Chinese political dissident, every Catholic, Christian, or Buddhist who languishes in China’s prisons because of their personal convictions.
Human rights conditions in China today are in many respects worse than when I came face-to-face with China’s brutal one-child policy in the early 1980s.
They are worse than they were in 2008, when the Summer Olympics were held in Beijing.
And they are likely to get even worse in the months to come as the Winter Olympics grows ever nearer.
For me, one of the most disturbing aspects of the 2008 Games was the construction of new stadiums. You see, stadiums in China are used not just for athletic competitions, but for public executions.
Like the Colosseum of Ancient Rome, these stadiums double as killing fields, where thousands of people have been executed without due process. China continues to execute more people each year than the rest of the world combined.
The day of an execution, the stadium stands are filled with people. They are there by official order, in order to witness what happens to those who break the Party’s law.
The prisoner — sometimes there are several — is marched in and forced to kneel in the middle of the field. After his crimes are read, he is killed by a single shot to the back of the head.
The West may view the upcoming Winter Olympics as a celebration of the human spirit, but the Chinese Communist Party views it as a massive propaganda exercise.
The Party’s chief aim will be to spruce up the country’s image abroad — badly tarnished by the coronavirus pandemic — and to generate nationalistic zeal at home.
We know the playbook that the Party will follow. We’ve seen it before.
In the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, Beijing received a face lift, buildings were refurbished, and illegal urban residents were driven out of the city and their hovels demolished.
The authorities even painted the dead grass green.
At the same time that they were sweeping the streets, they swept up dissidents of all kinds, banishing them to labor camps and prisons.
This time around the controls will be even tighter. The international media will arrive in Beijing to find the city sterilized of all possible protest.
More surveillance cameras will be installed, more facial recognition technology utilized, and more AI deployed. The population in and around the games will be monitored in real time, and any dissent or unrest snuffed out before it occurs.
All this is to say that the games will not bring change to China, but instead generate a new wave of persecution.
Once the Winter Olympics of 2022 are over and the athletes and the international press leave, the playing fields will once again become killing fields as well.
At their highest level, the Olympics celebrate the human spirit. It is not just about ice hockey or the toboggan run, the giant slalom or ice skating, but the efforts of individual men and women to be the best that they can be in every field of human endeavor.
This is why the games should always be held in countries where human rights are respected. This is why Beijing, where that overarching spirit is violated every day, is such a bad choice for the Winter Olympics of 2022.
The Chinese Communist Party should not be allowed to hide its atrocities behind the drama of athletic competition.
Because if medals were given to nations for committing human rights abuses, China would win the gold every time.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of “Bully of Asia: Why China’s ‘Dream’ is the New Threat to World Order”