Veteran Canadian Olympic officials dismiss ‘silly’ calls to move 2022 Games from China

Not a “silly” call but an unrealistic one, and thus more virtue signalling than effective. Only realistic option is a boycott with as many countries involved as possible:

A number of Canadian politicians have called for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, China, to be relocated to another country, but Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, says such a move is unfeasible at this late date.

“What the politicians are doing with this kind of a request of moving the Games with less than a year to go is silly,” said Pound, a former president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. “If they give this 30 seconds of thought, they know it’s not possible.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and other politicians, including Green Party Leader Annamie Paul and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, have called for the relocation of the Games, pointing to the Chinese government’s treatment of its Muslim minority population.

Source: Veteran Canadian Olympic officials dismiss ‘silly’ calls to move 2022 Games from China

Glavin: Canada’s can’t just shrug off the debate over the Beijing Winter Olympics

Now that a rising global movement to move the 2022 Winter Games from Beijing is finally starting to pick up steam in Canada, there’s a debate worth having about it, and some difficult questions to be raised. Can the International Olympic Committee be made to reverse its preposterous 2015 host-city decision in favour of Xi Jinping’s ravenous, globe-encircling police state? Is it possible to settle on a more civilized venue in time? What should Canada do if the effort fails?

These are among the difficult questions that arise no matter what we might think about Canadian flags on an Olympic podium being put to use as rags to wipe away the several provisions of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide that the Xi regime is transgressing in the course of enslaving and obliterating the Uighur people of Xinjiang.

But before we get to any of those questions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government will have to be shifted from the unequivocal standpoint it has adopted, which is that none of this is any of our business. The federal government has outsourced these decisions to the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees, and that’s all there is to say, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau’s office has been helpfully straightforward in explaining.

And then there are all the questions that arise from the rationale that various Olympic committee officials have provided, which several Liberal MPs have echoed, as to why the Winter Games must proceed as planned and according to Beijing’s wishes. The first among these questions is this one: Just how stupid do these people think we are?

Dick Pound, the most senior of the International Olympic Committee’s 98 members and former president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, points to the 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics as “completely ineffective” because the Soviet Union was still occupying Afghanistan a decade later. “Boycotts don’t work,” COC chief executive officer David Shoemaker and Canadian Paralympics Committee CEO Karen O’Neill argued in an opinion essay published in the Globe and Mail last week.

Apart from the usual treacle about how the Olympics “help build connections and open doors” and provide a “unique means for the promotion of peace and development, for uniting rather than dividing,” Shoemaker and O’Neill claimed that their critics want an Olympic boycott to be “the first order of business to reshape our relationship with China.”

That’s just straight-up untrue. Human rights organizations, advocacy groups mobilizing on behalf of Tibetans, Mongolians, Uighurs, Hongkongers and Chinese human rights defenders, and Canadian parliamentarians across the political spectrum, have spent years begging for effective measures – Magnitsky Act sanctions, for instance – to re-order Canada’s obsequious relationship with China.

The focus on the Olympics hasn’t just come out of the blue, either. The IOC ignored warnings from international human rights organizations six years ago that allowing China to host the 2022 Winter Games would only serve the regime’s purposes in silencing its critics. And now, the COC is playing right along, warning Canadian athletes to mind what they say in Beijing lest they offend the sensibilities of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and run afoul of the regime’s draconian national-security laws.

You would think Shoemaker would know better, and of course he does know better. Shoemaker came to his top COC job from a post leading the National Basketball Association’s China operations, which suffered massive reprisals – blacked-out broadcasts, boycotted merchandise, cancelled contracts – all in retaliation for a single Tweet in 2019 by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey: “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.”

It’s quite true that the Soviets were still carpet-bombing Afghanistan nearly a decade after the American-led 1980 Olympic boycott. Nothing changed, you could say. But nothing changed when the western democracies went all in for the Third Reich’s 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, either. All that Olympic “promotion of peace and development” didn’t dissuade the Nazis from annexing the Sudetenland, kicking off the Second World War and incinerating six million Jews.

The IOC’s decision to award Russia the 2014 Winter Games venue in Sochi didn’t cause the Kremlin to repeal its hateful laws against the LGBT community, but it did serve to further engorge Vladimir Putin’s circle of bloated oligarchs. The Sochi Games were supposed to cost $12 billion. The final bill exceeded $51 billion. When the IOC ignored Chinese human rights defenders’ pleas and awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics to the People’s Republic, the regime was not shamed into dropping its policy of bankrolling and arming the Sudanese atrocities in Darfur – the first genocide of the 21st century.

Awarding Beijing the massive propaganda victory of the 2008 Olympics did not dissuade the regime from descending into depths of despotism unmatched since the days of Mao Zedong, nor cause Xi Jinping to have second thoughts about dismembering what little was permitted to remain of Hong Kong’s autonomy. If anything, the regime was encouraged in its degenerate habits, eventually kidnapping the Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. The two Michaels have been imprisoned for more than two years now, in retaliation for Canada’s detention of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a 13-count U.S. Justice Department extradition warrant.

But pity the poor Canadian athletes, Shoemaker and Pound and the rest of the Olympic establishment plead. These fine young people have trained so hard to compete in this glamorous international forum. Why victimize them?

“We are not the ones who are victimizing the Canadian athletes,” Ivy Li of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong told me. Ivy’s group, along with Students for a Free Tibet Canada, the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project and several prominent Canadians, including former Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, are calling on the IOC to back away from Beijing and move the Winter Games to a free country.

“The athletes are being victimized by a very bad decision of the IOC. The IOC ignored all the protests and all the advice they were given. They didn’t listen,” Li said. “They gave Beijing the games and they are putting our athletes in this tough spot. Our athletes should not want medals that have been soaked in blood.”

A separate, similar initiative has united Bloc, Conservative, NDP and backbench Liberals who are calling on the federal government to intervene and urge the IOC to find another host city for the Winter Games. “Some may argue that sports and politics should not mix,” the parliamentarians say in a letter they all signed. “We would respond that when genocide is happening, it is no longer a matter of politics, but of human rights and crimes against humanity.”

The Conservative Party’s foreign affairs critic, Michael Chong, and Green Party leader Annamie Paul, have taken the same line. Paul says the federal government should look into finding a Canadian venue for the Winter Games.

Parliamentarians in Europe and the United Kingdom are taking up the same call to move the 2022 Winter Games out of China. While Joe Biden’s new administration hasn’t had much to say on the subject beyond a pledge to develop a “shared approach” to the issue with American allies and partners, there’s a bipartisan push in the U.S. Congress to give the Beijing games a pass.

The main challenge in Ottawa, however, is simply convincing the Trudeau government that Canadians are entitled to have some say in these things at all.

Source: Glavin: Canada’s can’t just shrug off the debate over the Beijing Winter Olympics

Canadian human rights groups among coalition calling for Beijing Olympic boycott

No sign that the Canadian Olympic Committee has any second thoughts. Opportunity for individual athletes to show leadership and a conscience:

Cheuk Kwan wants the world to remember what happened after numerous countries considered boycotting the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but eventually agreed to participate.

“The world should take 1936 as a lesson,” said Kwan, spokesperson for the Toronto Association for Democracy in China.

“We’re confronting a very similar situation. In hindsight, we should have (boycotted the Berlin Games). It really emboldened Hitler to to go on and attack Poland and start World War II.

“So, this is where we are right now from a moral standpoint.”

The Toronto Association for Democracy in China was among a coalition of 180 rights groups, including several based in Canada, that called for a boycott Wednesday of next year’s Beijing Winter Olympics.

The Games are set to open Feb. 4, 2022, despite the global pandemic.

Wednesday’s call to boycott is around reported human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in China, and coalition is composed of groups representing Tibetans, Uighurs, Inner Mongolians, residents of Hong Kong and others.

The group issued an open letter to governments to support a boycott “to ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent.”

There were similar calls to boycott the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, but many believed a global spotlight would help clean up reported human rights atrocities in China. That didn’t happen, Kwan said.

“Fast forward to today, from a Canadian standpoint we are probably in a worse situation,” he said.

Among the biggest concerns to Canadians is the continued imprisonment in China of the “two Michaels” — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Kovrig and Spavor are marking two years in separate Chinese prisons, on what Canada and dozens of its Western allies say are trumped-up espionage charges in retaliation for the RCMP’s December 2018 arrest of Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.

Another massive human rights issue is the Uighur indoctrination camps in Northwestern China. Since 2016, China has swept a million or more Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities into prisons and indoctrination camps, according to estimates by researchers and rights groups.

“They’ve put millions of people in education camps,” said Mabel Tung of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, one of the 180 letter signees. “Family here in Canada have been trying to contact their daughters, their sisters, their brothers that they haven’t seen or heard from in a few years, and they have no way of knowing what happened to them.

“So, it might seem like just a sports event, (but) it’s affecting so many people. We shouldn’t just ignore this fact.”

Dick Pound, one of the International Olympic Committee’s most vocal board members, told the Globe and Mail that Canada should resist calls to boycott next year’s Olympics.

The Montreal native said a boycott would achieve nothing and hurt Canadian athletes.

“Young people gathering in troubled times to compete peacefully in sport — this is a message worth sending and a channel that is worth keeping open even when the government folks are mad at each other,” Pound said.

Tung hopes people understand that “we’re not against the Olympics, we’re not against sports, and I think the Games should happen. But not in China,” she said.

Kwan said he understands arguments around the ineffectiveness of a boycott.

“And a lot of people are saying ‘What about the athletes? They’ll spend their whole lives regretting not going to Beijing,’ and so forth.

“But we have to take a stand morally when two of our citizens are languishing in jail.”

Kwan said China can use the Olympics “as a window dressing” in attempts to clean up its image on the global stage, while continuing its treatment of minorities.

Hitler’s rise in power had numerous countries considered boycotting the ’36 Games, with the U.S. being among the most vocal.

One of the Olympic principles forbids the discrimination by race or religion, Kwan pointed out. Nazi Germany forbid the participation of Jewish athletes in the Berlin Olympics.

The same principle, he said, should be applied to Beijing around the Uighur camps.

Rights group have previously asked the IOC to move the Games from China, but Olympic leaders have largely ignored the demands, saying it’s a sports body that doesn’t get involved in politics.

Pro-Tibet activists held up their flags Wednesday outside the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Source: Canadian human rights groups among coalition calling for Beijing Olympic boycott

Canada shouldn’t go to Winter Olympics in Beijing

Agree with Raph Girard, former government colleague. Do Olympians really want to be complicit with the Chinese regime and all its human rights abuses?:

The appointment of Catriona Le May Doan as head of our 2022 Olympic delegation would have been more than appropriate had there been a reason to send a team to China in the first place. How can we possibly be thinking of sending Canadians under our flag to a country that is holding two of our citizens hostage; that has threatened Canadians in Hong Kong; and that continues to use trade as a weapon against us?

China’s repression of the Uighurs and the democratic movement in Hong Kong  should be sufficient for fair-minded countries to withdraw, as Canada did from the Moscow Games in 1980. China is a  pariah state. Let us show some backbone and demonstrate we will not be bullied by letting it know right now that there will be no Canadian team to harass in Beijing in 2022.

Raphael Girard, Ottawa


John Ivison: Boycott of Beijing Olympics is no substitute for a proper foreign policyClose sticky video

While the government is pondering over a new approach to dealing with China, the Conservative Party is urging the Liberals to consider a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The idea was raised on social media by Canada’s former senior public servant, Michael Wernick. “Perhaps it is time to start preparing the Canadian public for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China,” he said.

Michael Chong, the Conservative foreign affairs critic, agrees.

“China is threatening our citizens and undermining our rights and freedoms with its covert operations in Canada. Everything should be under consideration to defend Canada and Canadians – including a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics,” he said in an email.

Chong pointed out that it is an option where this country has some leverage. “Canada is a winter sports powerhouse. No Winter Olympics could be a success without Canada’s participation,” he said.

The idea received a tepid response from the government.

The department of Canadian Heritage professed impotence when it came to the question of a boycott. “The decision on whether or not to participate in the Olympic and Paralympic games lies with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committee, as they operate independently of the government,” it said in a statement.

A boycott has pros and cons – it would send a clear message to Beijing that Canadians are incensed at their fellow citizens being jailed arbitrarily (Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are approaching two years in detention), while the Communist Party engages in intimidation and influence-peddling on Canadian soil.

On the other hand, it is unlikely to succeed in securing the release of the two Michaels.

The games were designed to lower international tensions and this would exacerbate them. A boycott would be a symbolic gesture unlikely to shift Chinese foreign policy, while the real victims would be the athletes.

Wernick said he is not sure it is a good idea, especially if Canada was on its own. “Did boycotting Moscow in 1980 make a difference?” he asked.

At the end of the day, a boycott is no substitute for a proper foreign policy, which is something Canada lacks when it comes to China.


Burton: Canada should manage our China policy more honestly

With Global Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne scheduled to give evidence Monday to the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China relations, expect a lot of hemming and hawing over why he voted against an Opposition motion for Canada to announce a decision on Huawei 5G before Christmas.

He’ll also have to explain why Canada has not undertaken effective measures to stop covert, coercive activities by Chinese agents who seek to influence Canadian policymakers and intimidate human rights defenders in Canada’s Uighur and Tibetan communities, pro-democracy activists, campaigners for freedom in Hong Kong or practitioners of Falun Gong. Canada’s policy on this so far has been akin to the “ghosting” (that is, withdrawing without explanation) of a discarded romantic partner. Canada has broken off the 5G relationship with Huawei for very good national security reasons, but doesn’t want to incur Beijing’s wrath by telling them straight out.

The argument that “ghosting” might obtain the release of Michaels Kovrig and Spavor, or avoid further economic retaliation that punishes Canadian business and farmers, has proven wrong-headed. After 711 days, two exemplary Canadian citizens are still in prison hell in the People’s Republic of China, neither of them deserving such vulgar abuse as Beijing tries to force Canada to comply with China’s political demands. Beijing obviously does not reward passivity with gestures of goodwill, and if the federal government continues to give in to the PRC’s amoral “wolf warrior diplomacy,” expect China to be thus emboldened to demand that Canada offer successive concessions in years ahead.

In 2018, China declared itself a “near-Arctic state” and called for a “Polar Silk Road” to not only expedite shipping through our Arctic waters, but develop ports, infrastructure, military presence and extract resources in Canada’s North. The carrot for Canada would ostensibly be huge Chinese state investment and developmental benefits, but this is all simply part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s strategy to displace the United States as the world’s dominant political and economic power by 2050, which will be the 100th anniversary of China’s People’s Republic.

This is all consistent with the PRC’s strong insistence that Canada not only allow Huawei free rein over our telecommunications framework, but that Canada cease its “discriminatory” security review process over any PRC acquisitions of critical Canadian natural resources and infrastructure.

Where is Canada’s appeasement of China ultimately leading? If push came to shove, would we revisit the decision to keep Aecon Construction out of Chinese state control? China certainly sees precedent for this, as our current government in 2017 inexplicably reversed the Harper cabinet’s 2015 denial of Hong Kong O-Net’s application to take over ITF Technologies of Montreal, a leader in advanced fibre-laser technology with military applications. It was because CSIS reportedly had advised that O-Net is effectively controlled by the Chinese state that Canada passed up China’s generous monetary inducements to OK that acquisition, despite the lobbying of Canadians who would have benefitted richly from the sale.

Little wonder that Beijing clearly perceives that holding Kovrig and Spavor is working out well, keeping Canada from retaliating for China’s flouting of accepted norms of international diplomacy and trade. It’s time Canada did the right things: ceasing to turn a blind eye to China’s money diplomacy meant to influence Canadian policymakers; adopting zero tolerance of Chinese state harassment of people in Canada; sanctioning Chinese officials who have wealth invested here and are complicit in the Uighur genocide; offering safe harbour to all Hong Kongers at risk of arrest under the PRC’s draconian National Security Law; and stringently inspecting all Chinese shipments into Canada to stem the flow of fentanyl.

As for Huawei, we really need to make a clear and principled statement. In doing so, China will have no reason to further poison its relationship with Canada by keeping Kovrig and Spavor so brutally incarcerated.

Ghosting has not worked in this relationship. It is time to make clear our Canadian intentions.

Charles Burton is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, and non-resident senior fellow of the European Values Center for Security Policy in Prague. He is a former professor of political science at Brock University, and served as a diplomat at Canada’s Embassy in Beijing. Source: Burton: Canada should manage our China policy more honestly


Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than Xinjiang region, China says

Cultural genocide with respect to Indigenous peoples, but acknowledge, recognition and efforts to address past and present injustice. None of which is happening in China. And legitimate to call for boycott of 2020 Winter Olympics in China:

The Chinese government says Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than the Xinjiang region, pointing to population growth rates – some inaccurate – that it says demonstrate it has not mistreated its Uyghur population.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also scoffed at the “ignorance” of Bob Rae, the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, who on Sunday said “there’s no question that there’s aspects of what the Chinese are doing” in Xinjiang that “fits into the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention.”

Mr. Rae’s comments mark the latest escalation from the Canadian government in its condemnation of Chinese policies in Xinjiang, where women have been sterilized, large numbers of people have been forced into political indoctrination camps and mosques have been demolished. Mr. Rae made the comments to the CBC, saying he has called for the United Nations Human Rights Council to mount a genocide investigation in Xinjiang.

On Monday, Mr. Zhao mocked Mr. Rae for his “ridiculous” remarks, pointing to demographic statistics as evidence. In Xinjiang the Uyghur population has increased by 25 per cent between 2010 and 2018, he said, a rate he called “18 times the rate of Canada.” That would suggest that “it is the Canadian people, rather than the Uyghurs, who are being persecuted,” he said, adding: “The ambassador should have done his homework beforehand to avoid making a fool of himself.”

Mr. Zhao, however, cited inaccurate figures. Canada’s population grew by more than 10 per cent between 2010 and 2018, according to Statistics Canada.

And Mr. Zhao did nothing to refute the dramatic changes in Hotan and Kashgar, Uyghur-dominated areas of Xinjiang where birth rates fell more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2018, the Associated Press has reported. The Xinjiang Health Commission has in public documents called for population growth rates in some areas with large Uyghur communities to be brought considerably below 2016 levels, according to research by Adrian Zenz, a U.S.-based scholar and senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

“In Guma [Pishan] County, the 2019 family planning budget plan specifically called for 8,064 female sterilizations,” Mr. Zenz wrote in a report this summer.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as acts that include “imposing measures intended to prevent births within [a] group,” as well as “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of [a] group.”

Some ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang who went through centres for political indoctrination and skills training have described conditions so oppressive they attempted to kill themselves.

But few have been willing to accuse China of genocide. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said China’s actions in Xinjiang “remind us of what happened in the 1930s in Germany,” while a resolution in the U.S. Senate has said China’s campaign “against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other Muslim minority groups … constitutes genocide.”

Chinese authorities have said they have protected human rights in Xinjiang by creating stability and helping to grow the economy. The Chinese government has defended its use of forcible political indoctrination as a necessary redress for radical thought. More recently, it has said that “students” in indoctrination centres have all “graduated.”

The Chinese government has said publicly that it has invited a European Union delegation to see the “real situation” in Xinjiang. That visit has not taken place because the two sides have yet to agree on terms.

Other governments, including in Australia, have declined to use the term “genocide,” saying such a determination is for courts to make.

Scholars, however, argue that the key question is not evidence but national will.

“There is a plethora of evidence in this case, but I think the larger problem will be the political capacity of international institutions to challenge a state as powerful” as China, said Sean Roberts, an international affairs specialist at George Washington University who is the author of The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority.

For Ottawa to lend its voice is important, he said. But it “will take a broad coalition of different states to change Beijing’s behaviour. If this is followed by others, it will indeed be significant, especially if those other states extend beyond the US, EU, and the British commonwealth.”

National leaders should also consider steps outside a genocide case, said Timothy Grose, a scholar who specializes in Xinjiang and Chinese ethnic policy at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

That could include “a broad boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics,” he said.

“”It is now up to world leaders and global corporations to persuade China to halt its state-violence against Uyghurs,” he said.

“A boycott would devastate revenue for the host city Beijing and the negative journalistic attention a boycott would attract – that would occur on a global scale – would almost certainly force leaders’ hands.”

Source: Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than Xinjiang region, China says

Alan Freeman: Boycotting the 2022 Winter Games should be one way Canada sticks it to China

Extremely hard on the athletes but valid approach if done in concert with other countries:

The Pew Research Center this week came out with some shocking, yet unsurprising, numbers. China’s reputation is in free fall around the world.

According to Pew, a majority of respondents in every one of 14 nations surveyed had a negative view of China. In nine of the countries, including Canada, negative views are at the highest point since the respected research institute began polling on the question more than a decade ago.

In Canada, 73 per cent of respondents had a negative view of China in 2020, compared with only 27 per cent back in 2007.

China’s human-rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other minorities, its attack on democracy in Hong Kong, and its assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea have had an impact.

For Canadians, these bully tactics have a particular edge after the kidnapping and imprisonment on trumped-up charges of our fellow citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

What to do? We all know there’s a crowd of well-connected China-appeasers here who want to start hostage talks with Beijing, and are willing to trade away not just Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, but our self-respect, in the naive hope that the two Michaels will be freed. Thankfully, the Trudeau government has kiboshed that idea.

Furthermore, we’re now seeing more signs that our government realizes Canadians are paying attention and don’t want to roll over in the face of China’s aggressiveness. According to the Globe and Mail, Canada has quietly begun accepting pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong as “Convention refugees,” individuals with a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion or political opinion.

Beijing won’t be happy.

That follows Canada’s earlier suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, a ban on exports of sensitive goods to Hong Kong, and a suggestion it could soon boost immigration from the beleaguered former British colony. It’s clearly not enough.

What else can we do? Well, look at the calendar. In just 16 months’ time, Beijing is due to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, another opportunity for China to strut itself as a superpower, the way it used the 2008 Summer Games to make a big splash.

How can we even contemplate sending the cream of our athletes, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looking on, and watching them gleefully enter Beijing’s Olympic Stadium for glitzy opening ceremonies while Canadians remain behind bars in a Chinese prison?

There is an alternative. This week, the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, suggested that if evidence continues to mount that the rights of Uyghur Muslims are being trampled, the U.K. will consider boycotting the Games. “Generally speaking, my instinct is to separate sport from diplomacy and politics, but there comes a point when this is not possible,” Raab told a parliamentary committee.

In Australia, where anti-China sentiments are even more ingrained than in Canada, Parliament will soon be asked to support a boycott of the Games. “The time has come for the freedom-loving countries to say to Beijing: ‘Enough is enough,’ ” according to an Australian Liberal senator, Eric Abetz. He also wondered why individual Australian athletes would want to lend their credibility to such a regime.

Easy for the U.K. and Australia to say no to Beijing 2022, you might say. They’re hardly a presence at the Winter Games, winning only a few medals apiece in a good year. Canada, on the other hand, is a Winter Olympics powerhouse, earning the No. 3 spot in the medal take in 2018 in South Korea.

All the more reason for us to boycott. The Winter Olympics is one place where we can make a difference. If Canada could convince Norway, Germany, the U.S., Netherlands and South Korea to pull out of the Games (the top six performers in Korea), China would be stuck with a shell of an Olympic Games. It means we have a chance to make a real difference.

I reached out to Guy St-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, and asked him for his views. “It is now impossible to remain ambivalent on China, knowing what they are doing in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, etc., and the way they have punished Canada for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou,” he told me.

St-Jacques said Canada should adopt a concerted approach with our allies, and threaten an Olympic boycott “if they don’t allow a UN delegation to go to Xinjiang to investigate the situation of the Uyghurs, repeal the National Security Law (in Hong Kong), or suspend its application and free the two Michaels.”

China needs to be reminded that if it wants to play a larger role on the world stage, it has to abide by international laws and treaties and stop acting the bully, including by engaging in hostage diplomacy, he said.

For those who argue that the Games are above politics, that’s clearly hogwash. The Olympics have been subject to political machinations since the beginning, and authoritarian regimes going back to Hitler’s Germany in 1936 have used them to legitimize their unsavoury policies.

Boycotts have been done before. In 1980, Canada joined a stream of Western countries and boycotted the Games in Moscow. And the 1976 Montreal Games was hit by a walkout of African nations in protest of apartheid in South Africa.

Standing up to a bully exacts a price. Not watching Team Canada play for gold in hockey or curling at Beijing in February 2022 should be a price Canadians are willing to pay.

Source: Boycotting the 2022 Winter Games should be one way Canada sticks it to China

Boycott Beijing Winter Olympics, former top Canadian diplomat to Hong Kong says

Among other reasons:

Canada should boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 in response to China’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong, says Canada’s former top diplomat to a city whose freedoms are coming under the increasingly direct control of authorities in mainland China.

Over the past few years, relations have been strained between China and a number of major Winter Olympic medal-winning countries, including the United States, Norway, Sweden, South Korea, Japan and Canada, whose athletes are preparing to compete in Beijing even as China continues to incarcerate Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Canada also counts an estimated 300,000 citizens in Hong Kong, where Beijing is extending its control through the introduction of a new law, expected this month, that will criminalize conduct that Chinese authorities consider secession, subversion, terrorism or foreign interference. Ottawa has unsuccessfully sought to pressure Beijing to release Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. It has also criticized the new law for Hong Kong, without any result.

Now, it’s time for Ottawa to make a more assertive response, says John Higginbotham, who from 1989 to 1994 was commissioner for Canada in Hong Kong, a role equivalent to an ambassador. Mr. Higginbotham was previously posted as a diplomat to Beijing.

The next “Winter Games are in February, 2022, not long from now. China wants them badly as the latest pageant of national power and prestige,” he said. Canada should organize a boycott of those Games unless China ”lays off Hong Kong,” he said. With the exception of Russia, he noted, “Winter Olympics are easier to organize a boycott than Summer. Medals are concentrated in a few friendly, cold, democratic countries.”

Others, too, have called for a boycott of the Beijing Games. Advocates for China’s Uyghur population have said it would be wrong for Western athletes to come to Beijing at a time when the largely-Muslim group has been forcibly incarcerated for political indoctrination.

China’s actions toward Hong Kong, which it has promised a high degree of autonomy, have created new concern.

“Boycotting the 2022 Olympics is one of the ways for the world to challenge China’s decision and urge for the withdrawal of this evil law,” said Joshua Wong, one of the most visible young activists in Hong Kong.

”The new security law is just another new weapon for Beijing to leverage political pressure, which puts all Canadians working and living in the city under threat,” he added. To defend “the city’s autonomy and the Canadian interests in this global financial city, I call upon the Canadian government to reconsider Hong Kong’s special treatment and take all necessary actions to oppose the national security law.”

Canada’s foreign ministry referred a question on the 2022 Olympics to Canadian Heritage, which said in a statement: “The decision on whether or not to participate in the Olympic and Paralympic Games lies with the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees.” The Canadian Olympic Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

In China, scholars dismissed the possible impact of any Olympics snub. “Unlike small to medium-sized countries, I don’t think a Winter Olympics boycott would bring any detrimental effect to China,” said Wang Yizhou, a prominent Chinese foreign policy thinker who is deputy dean of the school of international studies at Peking University.

Prof. Wang himself raised concern over the impact of Beijing moving too quickly to intrude on Hong Kong’s autonomy. But “I don’t think rising criticism or foreign pressure would wound China,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if some countries decide to quit the Winter Olympics, honestly.”

It’s not the first time people have called for exclusion of an Olympics in China. Across Europe and North America, lawmakers decried the 2008 Summer Games, and some national leaders, including Canada’s Stephen Harper and Germany’s Angela Merkel, declined to attend the opening ceremony.

But Canada and Germany still sent teams to the 2008 Games, which marked a major moment in China’s modern history. The Olympics cast a favourable spotlight on Beijing as a warm host, efficient organizer and co-operative global partner.

Since then, however, views on China have darkened among major Western democracies. China took years of trade measures against Norway after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to imprisoned dissident writer Liu Xiaobo. Chinese authorities angered Sweden after Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong bookseller with Swedish citizenship, was seized from Thailand and sentenced to prison in China. Japan and South Korea have long-standing frictions with China over territorial disputes. Chinese diplomats have created anger across Europe for comments considered insulting or hostile.

The 2022 Olympics “may well be seen by some governments as a possible pressure point on China,” said Brian Bridges, a scholar of politics and sport who is an affiliate fellow of the Centre of Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University.

Against that backdrop, “whether it’s Canada, European governments or the U.S., the idea that they would pull out as a national policy seems far, far more likely” in 2022 than it was in 2008, said Matt Ferchen, head of global China research at the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Canada has participated in Olympics boycotts before. In 1980, it joined the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Games as a protest against the Soviet-led invasion of Afghanistan. Conversely, more than two dozen countries boycotted the Montreal Games in protest against a New Zealand rugby tour of South Africa.


As 2020 Olympics Approach, Japan’s Treating Foreign Workers Like Indentured Labor

Frightening comparable to  Qatar with the 2022 FIFA World Cup and other Gulf states where passports and other documentation are held by employers:

As Japan ages and the population declines it needs foreign workers more than ever, but it’s unlikely to get them when employers can snatch your passport and keep it, even after you quit—leaving you in legal limbo.It all seems like something that you’d expect to happen in a dodgy part of the Middle East, but nope, it’s happening in the Land of Omotenashi, where everyone is putting on a friendly face with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on the horizon.

Foreign tourists with money are very welcome. Foreign laborers? Not so much. Yet they are needed. The Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) union published a report last year, The Dark Side of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, claiming that laborers—many of them foreign—already are being overworked and exposed to dangerous conditions. There simply aren’t enough Japanese to do the jobs that need to be done.

Even if all the sporting venues, new hotels, and housing for the Olympics are completed in time for the start of the games in July, staffing those facilities adequately may be a colossal challenge.

There’s even concern there won’t be enough security staff to police the venues, and the Japanese government is considering asking Japan’s Self Defense Forces to do the job. But soldiers can’t take up the slack elsewhere.

Japan’s Cabinet Office announced last year that the nation has a shortage of about 1.2 million workers, primarily in the construction, agriculture, fishing and hotel industries. Teikoku Data Bank lists 10 major industries in Japan that already are short on labor, not only in construction, but in the automobile industry and information technology.

Perhaps that is why Japan is willing to look the other way when laws get bent, as long as empty workbenches are filled. But Japan’s rep among potential recruits is such that many are discouraged from coming here. The abuse of foreign workers often occurs within the antiquated laws of this country, and the Japanese government seems to have no interest in solving the problem.


On Thursday, a Filipino woman, with the financial aid and support of the independent nonprofit called POSSE, which supports labor issues here, sued her employer in the Yokohama District Court. She is requesting the return of her confiscated passport and her graduation certificate, as well as financial compensation. Without her passport, she cannot find a new job or leave the country. Her employer, ironically, is an Immigration Law Firm in Yokohama.

According to the lawsuit and her lawyers, “Brenda”—who has asked us not to use her name, lest she be branded a troublemaker when she seeks future employment—arrived in Japan in 2017. After finishing Japanese language school, she began working for the law office in Yokohama in April of 2019.

“If I give you your documents, you’ll run away.”
— Brenda’s Japanese employer

Brenda was asked to give her employer the documents necessary to process her visa paperwork, and she signed a contract that allowed her boss to “manage” these materials. She did interpreting, translating Tagalog into English, and other secretarial work for the firm. However, when she was paid after the first month she discovered her entire salary was under 100,000 yen (about $900), well below the cost of living. That was half of what she had been promised. She tried to quit the firm, but her boss refused to give her back her papers, saying, “If I give you your documents, you’ll run away.”

Eventually, in early July she did resign, but the firm still refused to give her back her passport. She went to POSSE, which is known for helping young workers, students and foreign laborers.

Makoto Iwahashi, a staff member there, says that when they went to the law office with Brenda to talk to her employer, he refused to cooperate and yelled at them to leave.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” says Iwahashi. “In order to make non-Japanese work long hours for very little pay without quitting, a number of companies confiscate their employees’ passports.” Many foreign workers complain about poor conditions, wage arrears, workplace injuries, and unfair dismissal, he said, but regulations to protect the rights of foreign workers are far behind where they need to be.”

“This is, after all, a country where Karoshi (death by overwork) is a word everybody knows.”
— Shoichi Ibusuki, labor rights lawyer

“Many workers speak little Japanese,” says Iwahashi, which is a major handicap. “They are afraid to speak up or report the harsh conditions.”

Iwahashi notes that in many countries withholding an employee’s passport is against the law. The Immigration Bureau of Japan says there is nothing illegal about an employer keeping the passport of a foreign worker who is not under the technical trainee program. The Labor Ministry of Japan has issued guidelines discouraging employers from holding onto passports, but there are no penalties for violators.

If Japan wants to attract the large number of workers it needs, says Iwahashi, it’s going to have to do a better job protecting their rights.

Brenda told The Daily Beast, “I had heard stories about foreign workers being treated badly in Japan, but I never expected it from an Immigration Law Office. I guess because they know the law, they know they can get away with it.” She said she feels like an untethered kite in the wind, unable to find work because now she doesn’t have the necessary paperwork to apply for a job, and unable to leave Japan because she does not yet have a new passport, or her old one back.

Still, Brenda is a little lucky. POSSE is paying for the lawsuit and soliciting funds for the court case, which may take up to two years. “Even if the embassy reissues my passport, I’m going to fight this. I will stay and I will work and I will fight. I’m surely not the first foreigner in Japan to suffer this treatment, but I would like to be the last one.”

Brenda’s former employer, the Yokohama legal firm, has not yet responded to requests for comment, despite phone calls, letters, and emails.

Shoichi Ibusuki, the noted labor rights lawyer representing Brenda, says that it’s very rare to sue for the return of a passport in Japan. Most employers would simply return the passport rather than go to court. “But then again very few foreigners would ever be able to take their employers to court in the first place.”

The road to restitution and fair treatment for foreign workers is long and hard; the odds of winning are not on their side.


“In 2015, I was able to gain back wages from one surly employer of a foreign agricultural worker,” says Ibusuki, “but I had to get a court order to seize 1,000 chickens and their eggs, in lieu of compensation.”

At that point the recalcitrant employer chickened out, as it were, and paid up what he owed—after what had been more than a court battle of more than two years.

Partly for cultural reasons, Japan has never been a model nation when it comes to labor laws and worker protections. This is, after all, a country where Karoshi (death by overwork) is a word everybody knows. Japan’s working hours are some of the longest in the world, according to the International Labor Organization, despite numerous attempts at reform.

It may be a lot to expect a country notoriously unfriendly to labor conditions with its own people to integrate foreign labor successfully, and the history is not encouraging.

In the old days, Japan solved labor shortages in part by conquering Korea or parts of China and integrating them into the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. This doesn’t work so well anymore, but the archaic labor laws have not advanced far from this “golden era” when labor was synomous with slavery.

Modern-day servitude in Japan is more subtle, and a prime example of how it works is the Technical Intern Training Program. It started in 1993 and has come under fire repeatedly  as a breeding ground for the exploitation of foreign labor.

“The ultimate virtue of a Japanese worker: endure silently and work long, long, long hours for low pay.”
— Yoshihisa Saito, an associate professor at Kobe University

The Japan Times in an editorial, “Overhaul Foreign Trainee Program”, bluntly stated that a large number of trainees “are in fact used as cheap labor under abusive conditions.”

“Japanese labor laws are deeply flawed and outdated, unfit to protect Japanese workers, much less foreign workers,” says Yoshihisa Saito, an associate professor at Kobe University Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies. He notes that while there appears to have been progress made in integrating foreigners into the workplace, most of these advances are merely cosmetic. Saito emphasizes, “There are a multitude of legal ways that a Japanese company can keep a non-Japanese employee in servitude, other than simply taking their passport.”

In the end, Saito points out, the Japanese system for recruiting “is not about measuring skill but measuring endurance. Japanese companies want people who have gone through and completed spartan training programs, who make no complaints, and can build pleasant relationships at their workplace. This is seen as the ultimate virtue of a Japanese worker—endure silently and work long, long, long hours for low pay.”

Japan is a lovely place to visit as a foreign tourist. But currently if you want to work at Hotel Japan as a foreign laborer, you will need to check your human rights and your passport at the front desk.

You can’t change hotels and, to paraphrase The Eagles, while you can check out anytime you like, you may not be able to leave.

Source: As 2020 Olympics Approach, Japan’s Treating Foreign Workers Like Indentured Labor

Qatar’s recruited athletes stir debate on citizenship

Common situation to all Gulf states, save perhaps the athlete example:

When 39 athletes from Qatar qualified for the Rio Olympics, the most in the tiny Gulf state’s history, Noor al-Shalaby celebrated the achievement in a Facebook post.

“Qatar! You are in my blood and my soul,” wrote the 34-year-old accountant.

The small team delivered the country’s first silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

And the Olympians – at least 23 of whom were born outside Qatar and brought in to help the country flourish athletically – are a source of pride for Egyptian-born Shalaby, who was raised in Qatar.

But their status is also a reminder of restrictive citizenship laws that have complicated Shalaby’s life and made her future uncertain.

Qatar has for years used its immense oil and gas wealth to recruit sportspeople from around the world, part of an ambitious vault onto the world sporting stage by the wealthy Arab state which will host the soccer World Cup in 2022.

Kenyan runners and Bulgarian weightlifters granted citizenship to compete internationally for Qatar are compared by outsiders to ‘mercenaries’ sent to win medals for Doha and promote its standing abroad.

But the practice of handing passports to these athletes has stirred a debate about national identity inside Qatar where residents like Shalaby who have lived in the country for decades, and whose expertise may be needed in a post-oil economy, have no obvious path to citizenship.

“I was born in Doha… my friends are Qatari and, in my heart, I am too.” she said. “Of course it hurts that I am not a citizen.”


The influx of foreigners into the once-impoverished Gulf states goes back to the discovery of oil in the 1930s.

The growth of hydrocarbon industries brought in thousands of Arab workers, including Syrians and Palestinians, to bolster small local populations.

Many secured jobs and settled in the Gulf among local Sunni Muslim populations who had traditionally lived in the desert or in small coastal towns, living off pearling and trade.

But as numbers of foreign residents rose and millions of South Asian labourers were brought in to power construction booms, tightly-knit Gulf populations saw demographic change as a threat to their way of life.

Attuned to this, Gulf authorities have kept heavily guarded rights to nationality.

Qatar, a former backwater that is the world’s largest LNG exporter, is home to a vast foreign population that ranges from low-paid construction labourers living in camps outside cities to top executives who receive generous tax-free salaries.

No legal provisions exist allowing foreigners, who account for around 90% of Qatar’s 2.3 million population, to become permanent residents.

Instead a handful of foreigners who must speak Arabic and have resided in the country for at least 25 consecutive years are absorbed into Qatar’s citizenry on a case by case basis that requires approval from the emir.

A Qatar government spokesperson was not immediately available to comment. Officials, including the former emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, have said nationality is given to people who apply and fulfil regulations.


But some younger Qataris are now questioning the laws controlling citizenship, calling them outdated.

“If these guys get naturalized then what about doctors, scientists, engineers, academics and artists? Don’t they add more value to society?,” Hamad al-Khater, a public sector employee, tweeted after the Olympic debut of Qatar’s handball team, 11 out of 14 of whom are naturalised athletes.

A prominent Emirati commentator argued in a 2013 op-ed for citizenship to be opened to long-time foreign residents including entrepreneurs, scientists and academics who have contributed to society.

But many remain deeply apprehensive about relaxing citizenship laws: they fear the added expense – Qatar spends billions of dollars each year on free education, healthcare, and housing loans for its estimated 300,000 citizens – and question whether naturalised citizens could ever become true Qataris.

“Even without naturalising people, our identity is in a kind of crisis. Giving out passports would complicate things,” said businessman Abdullah al-Mohannadi, 32.

There is concern too that foreigners might have an adverse influence on Qatar’s dynastic political system and conservative culture – based on deep-rooted tribal values that are already considered under threat.

“What happens down the line when these individuals and their descendants call for change and go against Qatar’s political stability?” said Faisal al-Shadi, a Lebanese student born in Qatar. “These citizens might come together and challenge the status quo”.

After growth peaks and Qatar moves towards a post-oil economy, analysts say, the economic rationale for restricting citizenship could change.

“Qatar will need to attract long-term residents who can contribute to the tax base and support what will eventually become an ageing population,” said a Doha-based university lecturer.

“Residency rights are one way to entice professionals to stay in the country for longer.”

Source: Qatar’s recruited athletes stir debate on citizenship

New Statesman – Alan White’s Olympic diary: Modern, multicultural Britain took to the Olympic stage – and the world liked what it saw

New Statesman – Alan White’s Olympic diary: Modern, multicultural Britain took to the Olympic stage – and the world liked what it saw.