When the IOC (International Olympic Committee) selected Beijing as the host city of the 2022 Winter Olympics, it justified the torment of one million Uyghurs, and solidified its own hypocrisy. This self-proclaimed leader of the Olympic movement will dress itself with a cloth of compassion, and claim to use sports as a way to “promote peace.” It will bare a flag with five interlocking rings to symbolize the continents joining in unity under Olympism and draw up an Olympic Charter to outline rules and regulations for its organization to act with morality.
Then turn around and say, there’s a price to their humanity.
Less than 3,000km away from the Olympic host city, China’s north-western region of Xinjiang contains hundreds of internment camps. Where a Uyghur woman will ask for what crime she is being punished. That she was made to be removed from her family. Demonized by her country. Taken to work as a 21st-century slave under the guise of “re-education.”
She will ask, for what crime she is being punished, that this government should then be rewarded.
For her screams to be drowned by the echoes of celebration.
On the same land, she is led to a dark room by another female inmate. An inmate whose eyes will pass prayers before leaving her to three guards. They will beat her with a rod until her tears become blood. Rape her until her dignity and sanity are stripped just as quickly as her clothes. And when they see the last ounce of resistance, holding on to life, they will take their electric stick, sear it within her genital tract, and shock it out from inside.
On the same land, she is subject to the worst types of torment, an athlete will kiss this ground, exhausted, after winning her first Olympic gold.
For years, the Chinese government has been allowed to fuel an active genocide of the Uyghur Muslim population over crickets of indifferent politicians. Over $2 billion later, it has set itself up to compete as the largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious minority group, second to World War II, right in front of our screens.
So where do we draw the line, when our entertainment is proudly linked to a human cost?
To host the world's largest sporting event is to reap the benefits of international attention. A chance for any oppressor to become the IOC's highest bidder. Boost their nation’s pride. And like an abuser who waits for his guests as expected, will lock away his violence in the depths of his closet and make his space appear more peaceful, welcoming. Like home.
It was the summer of 1936 that the IOC awarded Berlin, Germany as the host of the Olympic games. Under the forming dictatorship of Adolf Hitler, he conducted a temporary relaxation in anti-Jewish practises. He removed the signs that barred Jews from public places. He covered up their “Aryans only” policy in sports, allowing one Jewish athlete to represent the country.
Visitors will gloat about its hospitality. Newspapers will write the country into the globe's good graces. And with this newfound fame, it will have decorated an ugly reality for the eyes of foreign spectators, and succeeded in winning its worldly praise.
Now that the IOC has once again granted an oppressive regime the ability to rewrite its narrative, more than 200 human rights organizations have called for an Olympic boycott. Of the 91 nations that are currently competing in the winter Olympics, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Australia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Belgium, Denmark and Estonia have conducted a diplomatic boycott. This means government officials did not attend the games to express disapproval of the host country but have permitted athletes to compete.
The Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, New Zealand and Austria have also rejected sending government representatives, but unlike the former countries who opposed some aspect of China or their human rights record, cited the pandemic as their reason.
While a diplomatic boycott can start the conversation, its message is too temporary and weak, to be able to end it.
It’s the horrors that we heard in our textbooks, whose pages are leaking onto our doorstep, and threatening our sense of liberation. Who told us the shackles we used for bondage were left in the 1900s and that the days of nations silently watching the massacre of their brothers were impossible to repeat. But what the IOC, world leaders, and oppressors, banking on us to turn a blind eye, have failed to understand, is that this generation has never been one to uphold the ridiculous illusion of peace.
For the Uyghur man and woman, whose pain has been questioned, ignored and even denied, to turn off your screen is to rally in solidarity with the power you do have.