The ‘Genocide Games’ Disruptors Giving Hell to Beijing

Creative, even if drowned out by the cheerleading media and others:

With the 2022 Winter Olympics well underway in Beijing, a coalition of activists from around the world is vowing to keep up its pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Chinese government throughout the two weeks of the competition, which they’ve dubbed the “Genocide Games.

The organizers, many of them women in their early twenties and thirties, have launched a series of events to run on each day until the end of the Games on Feb. 20. “During the month of February we will be continuing our campaign against Beijing 2022, shining a spotlight on China’s egregious human rights abuses,” Pema Doma, Campaigns Director for Students for a Free Tibet, told The Daily Beast. “Together we’ll continue to challenge Chinese propaganda at Beijing 2022.”

One of their main programs is the #IWillNotWatch campaign, heavily promoted on social media to discourage viewers around the world from watching the Olympics “and to counter Beijing’s propaganda show,” Zumretay Arkin, Program and Advocacy Manager for the World Uighur Congress in Munich, told The Daily Beast.

On Feb. 4, as Beijing was airing its glitzy Opening Ceremony, the coalition live-streamed Beijing 2022: The Alternative Opening Ceremony, where several young Tibetans, Uighurs, and Hongkongers convened to spotlight China’s human rights abuses.

NBC’s broadcast of the opening ceremony attracted just 14 million TV viewers, making it one of the least-viewed opening ceremonies in the history of the Olympics, according to statistics from NBC Sports. This marked a stark decline of about 43 percent from the 23.8 million viewers who watched the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018.

The day before the ceremony, activists stepped up their pressure with a series of demonstrations in 65 cities around the world to protest what they called “the IOC’s failure to hold China accountable for their serious and worsening human rights abuses.”

At a protest in San Francisco, a Tibetan monk clad in a maroon robe walked at the front of the march holding a portrait of the Dalai Lama as he led some 100 marchers south across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Chinese Consulate in downtown San Francisco. Behind him, several Uighurs waved the flag of the East Turkestan independence movement, which is unofficially used by activists to represent China’s Xinjiang Province. Others carried placards that read, “No Rights, No Games,” and “No More Shame Games.” Another showed a skier standing in front of an Army tank, a reference to the iconic photo of the Tank Man, a Chinese citizen who used his body to stop a column of tanks rolling down a Beijing street in 1989 during an anti-democracy crackdown.

As the March wound its way through the streets of San Francisco, bystanders stopped to take photos and to applaud the protesters. Dozens of drivers beeped their horns and leaned out of their cars to shout support.

When China won the Summer Olympics in 2008, rights activists expressed concerns about the country’s dismal human rights record. In response, China and the IOC argued that the Games would actually improve human rights and rule of law in China.

Activists say that the opposite happened. China, encouraged by the legitimacy given to it by its successful hosting of the 2008 Games, stepped up its suppression of human rights.

Since 2008, an estimated 160 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against China’s increasingly abusive policies in Tibet, which Freedom House has ranked the least free place on earth, tied with Syria. In Xinjiang, as many as 1 million Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking people, have been thrown into brutal prison camps, which the Chinese refer to as “re-education schools.” Hong Kong has also faced a severe crackdown against democracy, with prominent politicians, activists and journalists arrested, and civic organizations shut down.

“The Chinese government has felt emboldened since 2008,” says Chemi Lhamo, a 25-year-old Canadian-Tibetan activist in an interview with The Daily Beast. “It got the message from the international community that it was okay with China’s abuses, that the world will turn a blind eye to this.”

This time around, no one is predicting that the Olympics will democratize the country. Touting an authoritarian one-party rule as an alternative to Western-style democracy, China has risen to become an economic, technological and military powerhouse. Chinese leader Xi Jinping still wants to be legitimized by holding the Olympics, but he sees no need to placate the international community.

“How in the world does it make sense for China to host the Games when it has such a brutal record?” said Lhamo. “Things have not gotten better—they’ve gotten worse.”

Activists representing disparate peoples in China began to strategize immediately after China was awarded the Winter Games. In October 2020, a delegation representing 160 human rights groups had a virtual meeting with the IOC hoping to convince the body to either cancel or relocate the Winter Olympics. The meeting didn’t go well, some of those who attended the meeting told The Daily Beast.

“The conversation was tense, and they were not very respectful of the activists,” says Frances Hui, the 21-year-old director of We The Hongkongers, who took part in the meeting. “Each of us shared our own firsthand, heartfelt experiences. I couldn’t believe it when they told us the Olympics was simply about people from around the world playing sports.”

Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights lawyer who also took part in the meeting, says the IOC responded with the same excuse that was given in 1936 when Nazi Germany was awarded the Games: politics and sports should be kept apart. “The IOC refuses to listen,” he told The Daily Beast. “Human rights are getting worse and there is growing evidence of that. The IOC is clear about what’s happening in China. But it doesn’t care.”

Source: The ‘Genocide Games’ Disruptors Giving Hell to Beijing

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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