Op Ed: Why you shouldn’t watch the Beijing Winter Olympics

Reading Time: 5 minutes

As the 2022 Winter Olympics are underway from February 4-20, Canadians may be sitting down in front of their TVs to watch the 215 Canadians competing in the games in Beijing, China.

(PA Media/BBC)

Although it is patriotically intended that Canadians engage in Olympic activities, Canadians need to actively reevaluate their support to the Beijing games because through turning on their TV and watching these games, they are supporting the atrocities that communist China has committed and continues to actively commit. Here are some things that Canadians need to remember before clicking onto Olympic television programs:

Genocide of Uyghurs

Human rights groups believe that the Republic of China has detained over one million Uyghurs living in the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, which is officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). In recent years, a mass migration of Han Chinese people has moved into the region which has allegedly been coordinated to “dilute” the Uyghur population in the region.

More than one million Uyghurs have been placed in Chinese state “re-education camps”, with several hundred thousand of them being sentenced to prison terms. Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have reported that Uyghurs have been physically and sexually abused, used for forced labour, and women have been sterilized.

The XUAR produces one-fifth of the world’s cotton, but many human rights groups have accused the exportation of cotton out of the region of being done by forced labour. This has led many companies to remove their supply chains from the XUAR. Many of the cotton factories in the region are on the grounds of Chinese re-education camps.

The United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands have declared these atrocities as genocide. China continues to adamantly deny all allegations.

Tennis star Peng Shuai

Peng Shuai. (Getty Images)

In November of 2021, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai posted a 1,600-word statement on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, accusing former Vice-Premier, Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault, rape, and forcing her to play tennis at his private home. Gaoli has presided over many meetings in preparations for the Beijing Olympics. Chinese censors quickly took the post down. After releasing the statement, Shuai was not seen publicly for weeks.

Shuai then released a statement saying that all the allegations were false. This statement has been criticized by the United Nations and many other tennis stars for being forced by the Chinese government. The World Tennis Association (WTA) announced that they would pull all tournaments from China, saying that they held serious doubts that Peng Shuai was “…free, safe, and not subject to intimidation”. The head of the WTA, Steve Simon, said: “In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there”.

Hong Kong

(T. Peters/Reuters)

Protests in Hong Kong started in June of 2019 when the Chinese government planned to allow extraditions to mainland China. In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China after being a British colony. It was deemed to be “under one country, two systems”, where Hong Kong kept some autonomy and Hong Kongese people would have more rights.

As of March 2021, the electoral system in Hong Kong has been overhauled and Beijing has grasped control of Hong Kong’s democracy. There remains no free press, monuments commemorating democratic protests have been taken down, and those running for election are required to take Chinese loyalty tests.

Canadians detained in China

In the fall of 2021, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were released from Chinese prisons after being arbitrarily detained for 1,019 days. The two Michaels were detained in December of 2018, nine days after the arrest of Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the U.S. under its extradition treaty with Canada.

The men were denied access to legal counsel, the lights in their cells were left on for 24 hours a day, and they were interrogated for up to eight hours a day. The men were charged with espionage endangering China’s national security. Their trials were held in closed courts and no evidence was made public.

There are currently 115 Canadians in Chinese custody. Although not all Canadians in custody are in arbitrary detainment, there are at least four that are currently on death row.

Burner phones

Seven nations, including Canada, have warned their athletes to not use their own devices in Beijing over fears that they could be hacked. Some athletes have been supplied disposable kits that can be thrown away after the games. Human Rights Watch has described China as an “Orwellian surveillance state”. Athletes have been educated on the ins and outs of their devices, having been warned to only download the mandatory My2022 app for athletes in the village on burner phones.

Diplomatic Boycotts

(Frederic J Brown/AFP)

In early December of 2021, the Canadian government joined many other nations like the United States, Australia, and Britain in diplomatically boycotting the Beijing Winter Olympics. By doing this, the Canadian government will not be sending government representatives to the games. This is not the first time this has happened in Olympic history. In 1980, at the Moscow Olympics, many nations diplomatically boycotted the games, as well as athletes. So far, no athletes from the four nations have announced their withdrawal from the games.

Member of the International Olympic Committee, Dick Pound, noted that Canada “…seems to have moved on from its position in 1980 in the Moscow boycott where the athletes should pay the only price for political issues”. He added that the diplomatic boycott seems unlikely to actually impact the Games.

“The Canadian public should not be cheering the events on”

Diplomatically boycotting the games is not enough. The Chinese government is committing genocide, censoring free speech, and imprisoning and torturing Canadians in prisons, yet Canadians are still supporting the sporting events happening in Beijing. The international community has only occasionally been outraged by the atrocities committed by China, which has allowed Beijing to benefit from hosting the Olympic Winter Games this year. China is tyrannical, communist, and oppressive and is simply being rewarded for it. The Republic of China should never have been awarded the hosting duties, but now that they have, Canadians should not be competing there. Moreover, the Canadian public should not be cheering the events on.

Emily is in her third-year of Political Science. She loves studying and academics which follows into her research work. She's an avid plant mom and a stern black coffee drinker. When she's not working or doing school work, you can find her listening to 70s music on vinyl and watching Parks and Recreation.