The Guardian view on China’s Winter Olympics: remember the Uyghurs

Ťfinancial crisis of 2008 was the moment which cemented both China’s rise and its growing confidence as the west faltered. 但该 奥运会 held in Beijing a few months earlier was the global symbol of its ascendancy: a coming-out party which proclaimed its return to the forefront of political and economic power, greeted with genuine international enthusiasm, despite the misgivings of dissidents.

Fewer will celebrate the Winter Games due to kick off in Beijing in February. 上个星期, the UK and Canada joined the US and Australia in announcing a diplomatic boycott, and New Zealand has said it will not send anyone of ministerial level – to the wrath of China, which warned that countries will “pay a price” for the decision. (France will participate as usual, 和 埃马纽埃尔·马克龙 describing the boycott as “insignificant”, and much of Europe remains undecided). Concern for tennis champion and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai, since she alleged that a former senior leader had coerced her into sex, have magnified attention to China’s human rights record – and to the International Olympic Committee’s keenness to reassure the world that there is nothing to worry about, 一种 repeated pattern.

But the primary issue is the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, up to a million of whom have been held in camps. 上个星期, an unofficial British-based inquiry’s report 描述 the torture and rape of detainees and concluded that the treatment of Uyghurs constitutes 种族灭绝 – the deliberate attempt to destroy all or part of the ethnic group. The inquiry’s chair, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, stressed that there was no evidence of mass killing, with his finding based instead on the suppression of births, including through forced birth control, sterilisation, hysterectomies and abortions; he argued that the “vast apparatus of state repression could not exist if a plan was not authorised at the highest levels.” (Human rights groups they have yet to document the intent required for a genocide finding, but have evidence of crimes against humanity.)

Since the US had already stated that genocide is taking place, it was always hard to see how it could send an official delegation. Others have been clear in condemning grotesque abuses in Xinjiang. Staging the Olympics is always a statement by a government: in a country where dissent is not tolerated, and where a nationalist story of triumph is increasingly central to the party’s legitimacy, it is a propaganda event designed to elicit global applause for a domestic audience. It is no surprise that China, which dismisses genocide claims as “absurd”, portrays all concerns as the “politicisation of sports”, using human rights merely as a pretext. It is domestically useful to depict the boycott as another malign attempt to hurt China; but it is likely that the leadership also believes it, refusing to recognise that the primary cause of growing hostility abroad is not US hegemonic anxiety, but Beijing’s oppression of the Uyghurs and the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms at home, and its increasingly aggressive approach internationally.

Nor is the IOC’s willingness to play along unexpected. 这是, 然而, reprehensible. Asked about the treatment of Uyghurs last week, IOC member Dick Pound told a German broadcaster that – despite satellite images, leaked documents, eyewitness testimony and campaigners’ briefings – “I don’t know enough of the facts.” He cast doubt on extensive reporting of abuses and suggested that an independent review might be helpful. The UN human rights chief has been asking to visit the region for three years without success.

The IOC believes its battered reputation is shielded by its incantation of the mantras of friendship and respect, and the global love of sport. But many countries have rightly thought again about offering their support to this event. Sponsors should now do the same.

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