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

Ethnic and immigrant Chinese have range of feelings toward Beijing Olympics

Not that surprising to find a diversity of views:

Shuyu Kong recalls being a new Asian studies professor at a Canadian university when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008.

Now, in 2022, with many years of seeing students explore their identity and a sense of belonging, the Simon Fraser University academic is once again thinking about the feelings of those with ethnic, heritage or immigrant ties to China as the Winter Olympics unfold in Beijing.

Source: Ethnic and immigrant Chinese have range of feelings toward Beijing Olympics

Journalists and News Orgs Including ESPN Snub Beijing Olympics of ‘Shame’

How is CBC and other Canadian media handling this ethical and moral quandary? CBC Sports seems to be a cheerleading mode, with little critical notes on issues related to China being the host and the restrictions it means:

For sports reporters, being sent to cover an Olympic Games has always been seen as a privilege, a career highlight, a chance to bathe in the reflected glory of the world’s top athletes while enjoying a couple of weeks in the sun or on the slopes, all expenses paid.

Now, not so much. Reporters assigned to next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics are being warned to leave their cellphones at home and pack “burner phones” and “clean” laptops to prevent Chinese spies hacking into their data. They have been sent a 36-page guide on how to navigate China’s ultra-strict COVID regulations just to get into the country, including a health-monitoring app and multiple PCR tests. Once inside the Olympic bubble, they could be served food by robots, prepared by robots, in order to limit unnecessary human contact. And if, after all that, they do test positive for the rampant Omicron variant, then it will all have been in vain; their Olympics will be over.

Not surprisingly, some editors are deciding it’s just not worth it and are keeping their staffs at home, including executives at ESPN, the U.S. cable sports giant that announced Thursday that the four reporters it had been due to send to China would be staying home and covering the Games from the U.S.

As a non-rights holder, ESPN was never going to be able to broadcast any actual sports coverage from Beijing. Its news reporters would normally be flitting between venues, catching up with American stars to generate stories off the field of play and filming video stand-ups before key venues. As part of their pandemic plan, however, Beijing Olympic organizers are treating all three Olympic clusters—in central Beijing and two mountain zones outside the capital—as Olympic venues in their own right, further limiting the activities of non-rights holders.

ESPN’s executive editor, Norby Williamson, displayed his frustration at those restrictions in a statement confirming the coverage plans. “With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the COVID-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us,” he said.

But even NBCUniversal, which has paid billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast successive Olympics, is cutting back on its team in China. Its anchors and announcers will cover the Games from the NBC sports hub in Stamford, Connecticut. They will be following the example of the BBC, which successfully covered last year’s Summer Olympics from a “greenscreen” studio in the suburbs of Manchester designed to fool viewers into thinking they were watching a live feed from downtown Tokyo.

With the U.S. leading a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Games—which means Western political leaders snubbing the opening and closing ceremonies in the Bird’s Nest stadium—NBC has been stung by suggestions from human rights groups that its coverage could legitimize Chinese repression of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. Molly Solomon, NBC’s Olympic production chief, told reporters this week that athletes would “remain the centerpiece of our coverage” but the “geopolitical context” would not be ignored.

That political pressure will remain, at least until American skiers, skaters, snowboarders, and hockey stars start showing off their medals. A bipartisan group led by Rep. Tom Malinowski, the New Jersey Democrat, called on Friday for the International Olympic Committee to explicitly guarantee athletes’ right to free speech in Beijing after a Chinese official warned that competitors who spoke about against human rights abuses could be sent home.

Some journalists have not even been allowed to go at all. Canadian reporter Devin Heroux tested positive for coronavirus late last year and has been told he cannot now cover the event. “Unfortunately my plans to cover the Olympics from Beijing have been derailed,” the CBC reporter wrote.

Reporters who are going admit they will not be allowed to report freely. “It’s naive to think the pandemic hasn’t played right into China’s hands,” Christine Brennan, a USA Today columnist told the Washington Post. “They would have wanted to control us, anyway. This just gives them another excuse. China will be China.”

Owen Slot, chief sportswriter at The Times of London, described his shock when he and other reporters assigned to the Beijing Games were invited to a security briefing at the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper in December: “Don’t use your phones over there, we were informed. Take a burner phone. Take a clean laptop. And even then, if do you phone home, your friendly hosts may be straight into your wife’s data instead.”

Fortunately, Slot wrote earlier this month, he already has a burner phone at home on which he can call home to his family. “Yet we are just scratching at the surface here. How did we get to a point where we granted hosting rights to a nation where you can’t use your phone?”

He added: “The truth is that we are entering the most extraordinarily appalling year for our global sporting feasts. We start 2022 with the Olympics in Beijing and finish it with the World Cup in Qatar. It is a double whammy of shame. We will hold our noses, award the medals and leave behind us the empty rhetoric of disapproval.”

Source: Journalists and News Orgs Including ESPN Snub Beijing Olympics of ‘Shame’

Articles on #Beijing2022 and the boycott question: “The Nazis used us during the 1936 Olympics. We cannot fall for the same propaganda tactics in China next year;” “Kelly: Washington’s diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics is worse than meaningless;” “53% of Canadians would not send diplomats to 2022 Olympic Games; two-in-five would keep athletes home”

Starting with the obvious parallel:

In a recent telephone interview with Fox News, former President Donald Trump said he is opposed to a proposed boycott of the 2022 Olympics in China because it would “hurt the athletes.”

President Joe Biden and others have raised the idea of a potential boycott of the 2022 games to protest the Chinese government’s ongoing persecution of its Muslim Uyghur citizens and other human rights abuses, such as the oppression of Tibetans and the trampling of civil liberties in Hong Kong.

America has been through this debate before — in 1936, and again in 1980. The very different outcomes of those two earlier debates offer some useful lessons for our current controversy.

The Chinese regime is engaged in “ongoing genocide” against the Uyghurs, according to the State Department. A recent report by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum found that “the Chinese government’s attacks on the Uyghur community are alarming in scale and severity” and constitute “crimes against humanity,” including “forced sterilization, sexual violence, enslavement, torture, forcible transfer, persecution, and imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty.”

From the Chinese perspective, the Olympic Games represent a prime public relations opportunity. They make the host country seem like an accepted part of the civilized international community.

Adolf Hitler saw the 1936 Berlin Olympics the same way. Many Americans today remember the Berlin Olympics as a victory for the good guys, because African American track star Jesse Owens won four gold medals, an implicit challenge to Hitler’s claims of “Aryan” racial superiority.

But in reality, The Games were a triumph for the Nazis in the way that mattered most — improving the Hitler regime’s image abroad.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had ample warning that the Nazis intended to use the games for propaganda purposes. The U.S. ambassador in Germany, William Dodd, reported to Washington that the Nazis intended to use the Olympics “to rehabilitate and enhance the reputation of the ‘New Germany.’”

Foreigners will “have only the usual tourist contacts,” he wrote, and are likely to come away doubting the veracity of “the Jewish persecution which they have previously read in their home papers,” he predicted. The 2,000 translators hired by the Hitler government were also being trained at “parrying embarrassing questions and insinuating praise of National Socialism in their small talk,” Dodd wrote.

Dodd’s warnings went unheeded; the Roosevelt administration rejected the boycott as undue interference in American-German relations

But he was right: The New York Times praised the German government for its “flawless hospitality.” A Los Angeles Times correspondent wrote that “Zeus, in his golden days, never witnessed a show as grand as this.” An editorial in that newspaper even predicted that the “spirit of the Olympiads” would “save the world from another purge of blood.”

Even President Roosevelt was taken in — or perhaps he was looking for a way to justify America’s participation. Meeting with American Jewish Congress leader Rabbi Stephen S. Wise shortly after the games, the president told Wise he had learned from two tourists who had attended the Olympics “that the synagogues are crowded and apparently there is nothing very wrong in the situation [of Germany’s Jews] at present.”

Rabbi Wise wrote later that he was horrified by FDR’s comment. Wise tried to “explain to him how grave conditions were….[I] told him of some recent happenings in Germany….Cited other examples of the ruthless and continuing oppression of the Jews. He listened carefully; but I could see that the tourists (whoever they were, the Lord bless them not) had made an impression upon him.”

In 1980, the U.S. government made a different calculation: the Carter administration boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics as a protest against the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. In his interview, Trump claimed that this boycott “didn’t work.”

The Trump argument, apparently, is that since the boycott did not bring about a Soviet withdrawal, it was a failure. But that view misunderstands the purpose of the 1980 boycott.

President Carter obviously didn’t expect that his gesture alone would convince the Soviets to leave Afghanistan; it was a symbolic protest. A boycott of the Chinese games likewise would be symbolic.

But symbols are important. Such foreign policy gestures help shape international opinion and establish standards for how governments respond to crises around the world.

If the Biden administration does not undertake a substantial symbolic protest, such as a boycott, it would send a message to China’s leaders that their brutal human rights abuses are of no concern to the United States. That is a dangerous message to send.

The U.S. government looked away during the Holocaust, not to mention more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur. America’s response to ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and mass atrocities in Syria was also too little, too late. It’s time for a new kind of U.S. response.

Dr. Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and author of more than 20 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust.


Cathal Kelly of the Globe calls out the hypocrisy and weakness of “diplomatic boycotts:”

Let’s try to imagine how a diplomatic boycott might work in your own life.

You told your neighbour that you’d go over to her house for her annual New Year’s Eve party. Then you found out that she runs a dog-fighting ring or some similarly heinous activity on her property.

You are so morally repulsed that skipping the party isn’t enough. You feel the need to get on the neighbourhood group chat and announce you’ve come to a difficult decision. After a lot of soul searching, you’ve determined that no decent person should be seen to support such a person and their party. With that in mind, you will not be attending this year. Instead, you will stay home rubbing your rosary beads. You’re not going to go so far as to call anyone else who would attend such a party lower than a serpent’s belly, but it’s implied.

Also, in unrelated news, your kids will be going to the party. They’ve been looking forward to it all year and you can’t bring yourself to let them down.

Yes, there may be dog fighting and assorted other violence going on while they are in the house. Maybe they’ll be able to hear whimpering from the garage. But you don’t want to be the ogre who ruined everyone’s night out.

You heard there’s going to be a raffle at the party. What if your kids win a bunch of stuff and bring it home? Well, what can you do? You can’t stop them from winning. As much as it pains you, you’ll have to enjoy the spoils with them.

In summation, this party is wrong and you are against it.

This isn’t exactly what Washington has done in announcing an ersatz boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. What it has come up with makes less sense than that.

America’s long-rumoured halfway measure – the diplomatic boycott – was officially announced on Monday. It doesn’t amount to much. It’s a more impressive sounding way of saying you are eliminating Olympic junkets. Now all the sad, second-rate pols from North Dakota and Maine won’t get flown private to Beijing so they can take a bunch of ego shots with Auston Matthews.

In the announcement, America’s rationales for taking this action were cast by White House spokesperson Jen Psaki in Second World War terms: “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity.” It is difficult to imagine more serious charges.

Yet elsewhere in the same remarks, Psaki sounded the executive air horn on behalf of her boss: “We will be behind [America’s Olympic athletes] 100 per cent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

That. What you did right there. That is fanfare. Fanfare’s what you call it when you root publicly for athletes. Eliminating the fanfare would mean saying nothing at all.

Fanfare is what this is about, though not the usual sort. We are speaking of political fanfare – controlling and redirecting the sporting kind so that it lands on the right politicians.

This is a leadership looking to be congratulated for doing the right thing, while getting to do what they self-evidently believe to be the wrong thing.

Take earlier comments about the proposed boycott from Robert Menendez, the senator who chairs the foreign relations committee. He called it “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of the Chinese government’s unconscionable abuses.”

I’m sure the people suffering those abuses can discern the difference between American athletes holding up the Stars and Stripes on Beijing podiums and the American VIPs who will no longer be whooping it up in the stands behind them. Perhaps “unwavering” means something different in Menendez’s district.

You can’t be said to be taking a stand unless it involves some sort of sacrifice. What has America given up here? Nothing. Less than nothing. This move saves them on airfare.

This isn’t moral leadership. It’s outrage mitigation. Washington needs to be seen doing something, but nothing so substantive that it might interfere with everyone’s fun times. Unable to boycott and just as unable to not boycott, America has chosen a boycott that isn’t a boycott. Except it has called it a boycott. Cool trick.

Playing silly buggers with language makes it possible for everyone to oppose China as party host, while still enjoying the jingoistic boost that comes from attending China’s party.

Had America said nothing about a boycott and quietly ordered officials to stay home, its position would at least be logically consistent. That would have allowed them to give the athletes, broadcasters, corporate sponsors and voters/fans what they want, without confronting the implications of what that means. It wouldn’t be very honourable, but would at least make some sense.

Putting a name to America’s semi-absence reveals it as a hypocrite. What else would you call accusing someone of mass murder, congratulating yourself on your own bold truth-telling and then helping yourself to their hospitality?

Now we’ll see what America’s allies do, and what China does in turn. Beijing has already promised “firm countermeasures.”

Would it be possible for an Olympic host to pull out of a Games a few weeks before they start? The idea would not have even occurred to me a couple of weeks ago, but it’s beginning to feel like a lot of impossible scenarios are now possible.

For those who are still Beijing or Bust, there is good news. Despite all the hot talk, we are still in the posturing stage. No one has yet done anything to put the Games in doubt.

For those who had hoped for a moral stand on this file, there is no news at all. Just more of the same nonsense meant to obscure the fact that no one wants to take any position that might force them to tell the kids they can’t go to the globe’s most lavish and beloved circus.


Lastly, a useful Angus Reid survey showing that 40 percent, higher than I expected, support a full boycott (athletes) compared to 53 percent the “virtue signalling” diplomatic boycott:

Not since the 1980 Games in Moscow has Canada declined to send athletes – or officials – to the Olympics.

But as the U.S. announces a diplomatic boycott of next February’s Winter Games in Beijing – other Western nations are being asked their intentions.

While the Canadian government contemplates who – if anyone – it will send to the Olympics, a new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds just over half of Canadians (53%) supportive of their country taking the same measure as the U.S., denying any diplomatic presence in Beijing.

Two-in-five would go further, keeping athletes home from China as a protest against human rights abuses in the host country.

Overall, four-in-five (78%) support some sort of boycott. Despite this sentiment, the vast majority are resigned to the fact that Canadian protest will have little impact on China’s domestic policy. Nearly three-quarters (73%) say it is “unrealistic” to expect actions taken by this country will change China’s behaviour.

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More Key Findings:

  • Favourability towards China has increased since Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were released from prison and returned to Canada, but it is the minority view. One-in-six (16%) Canadians say they hold favourable views of the country.
  • Half (48%) of Canadians who view China positively say there should be no boycott of the Games; one-in-five (17%) of those who view the country negatively say the same.
  • Men between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most supportive of officials and fans staying home at two-thirds (63%) and half (47%) respectively.