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Boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

Originally published in The Examiner on Feb.15, 2021

By, Mike Waltz

Americans fondly look back at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as a moment during the pre-war era when the United States beat the Nazis on their home turf and refuted their delusional notion of racial supremacy on the field.

Not only did star runner Jesse Owens showcase Herculean performances that brought home four gold medals, but nine other black athletes took home medals as well, dealing a huge blow to Adolf Hitler’s propaganda machine.

Though we should continue to celebrate their groundbreaking success, one can question whether sending athletes to Berlin was worth the millions harmed by an emboldened and legitimized Nazi regime.

By the time Americans sent athletes to Germany, the Nazis had already carried out a number of horrific, authoritarian actions that included the organized nationwide boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses, the banishment of Jews from civil service positions, forced sterilizations of individuals with disabilities, and the passage of the Nuremberg Race Laws.

Despite all this, the world allowed the Nazis to take center stage for Hitler to showcase his vision of a reindustrialized and transformed Germany.

Nearly 85 years later, the U.S. is approaching a similar set of circumstances with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on the horizon.

One can point to a number of destabilizing and dangerous actions the Chinese Communist Party has carried out in just the last year: its reported cover-up of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, its repressive crackdown and undermining of freedoms provided to the citizens of Hong Kong, and the Chinese military’s incursion of Taiwanese sovereignty.

But the most vile of actions orchestrated by Communist Party is quite clear: its genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minority populations in the northwest region of Xinjiang.

In an extraordinary move last month, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo determined the Communist Party committed crimes against humanity that included arbitrary imprisonment of more than a million civilians, forced sterilization, torture, forced labor, and restrictions on freedom and religion. Pompeo declared that “the Nuremberg Tribunals at the end of World War II prosecuted perpetrators for crimes against humanity, the same crimes being perpetrated in Xinjiang.”

Earlier this month, the BBC published a bombshell report that detailed the rape and torture Uighur women experienced on a near nightly basis. Other reports have also detailed the thousands of Muslim minorities who are placed in mass internment and are also used to work in forced labor that produce products exported around the world.

This is a reality that needs to be confronted head-on, not brushed aside.

In a recent press conference, Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed with his predecessor’s assessment: “My judgment remains that genocide was committed against the Uighurs, and that hasn't changed.”

Though there is bipartisan consensus in acknowledging this genocide, what else can we do to rein in the Communist Party’s atrocities in Xinjiang?

Start with boycotting Xi Jinping’s crowning moment as the country’s leader.

Autocratic countries have attempted to leverage hosting the Olympics into legitimizing their stances among the global community: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, and now the People’s Republic of China.

Fresh off hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t wait even a month to launch his invasion of Crimea in Ukraine. Consider that this was only six years after Russia launched aggressive campaigns against its small neighboring country of Georgia.

Rewarding the bad behavior of autocrats only emboldens them. There isn’t a worse time to reward Xi for his utter recklessness and inhumanity.

China should not be permitted to enjoy the wealth of economic benefits and free publicity that come with hosting the Olympics when it acts as if imprisoning millions of its citizens based on their ethnicity and religion or unleashing a pandemic on the rest of the world is normal behavior.

U.S. companies such as Nike and Coca-Cola, which have been suspected of employing or sourcing labor from Uighurs, shouldn’t benefit from the advertising and exposure from the games either.

Following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter made the right decision to pressure the U.S. Olympic Committee to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and campaigned to get other members of the global community to join us. As a result, the smallest number of nations were represented at the Olympics since 1956.

I can’t imagine the amount of dedication and hard work our athletes have invested to qualify for this moment in their life, but this moment is far more consequential than an athletic competition.

Sen. Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, has led in calling on the International Olympic Committee to move the games to another country unless Beijing immediately addresses its human rights violations.

But it’s time we look forward to the likelihood that the IOC has no intentions of changing course. To ensure America remains a leader in human rights, I’m introducing a resolution encouraging the U.S. Olympic Committee to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing should the IOC not move the location of the games to a different site.

Let’s be clear, this is an act of last resort, but the IOC is unfortunately demonstrating that it has been corrupted by Communist Party money like many other international organizations.

I hope this serves as a first step for the government to join the 180 human rights groups calling for a boycott and to keep the U.S. at the forefront of advocating for human rights around the world.

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