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China 2022 Olympics, Moral Failure, and the Case for Boycotts

Updated: Jan 11

Though only a year away, more and more attention is being devoted to the upcoming winter Olympics in Beijing, and rightfully so. As conversations about the winter games escalate, so too is the question of whether or not the Olympics should be boycotted. The primary controversies in China center around extreme human rights abuses and atrocities, especially involving the Uighurs, the COVID-19 pandemic, tyranny against Hong Kong, and many other state-sponsored acts of aggression and indignities orchestrated by the Chinese government. From genocide and organ harvesting to sterilization and forced labor, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been accused of serious human rights abuses against the Uighurs since at least 2014. In an Amnesty International report from 2019, they describe the Uighur situation as follows:

In November, the New York Times and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists disclosed two sets of leaked documents from unidentified Chinese officials detailing the crackdown in Xinjiang and the framework for facilities where hundreds of thousands of predominantly Muslim ethnic groups are being subjected to brainwashing and other ill-treatment. The descriptions in these documents matched the testimonies Amnesty International received from former detainees and overseas relatives of those sent to the camps or who went missing in Xinjiang. The documents also further disproved the Chinese government’s claims that these facilities were merely “vocational training facilities”.

As recently as a few weeks ago, the BBC provided extremely disturbing accounts of torture and the rape of Uighur women in Chinese detention and re-education camps. The video footage below documents the brutality and inhumanity experienced by Uighur women.

As more print and video information surfaces, the world is grateful for the many human rights organizations that have been on the front lines monitoring the Uighur situation very closely and making these realities available for all to see. Thankfully, more pressure seems to be mounting on the Chinese government to stop the torture and inhumanity suffered by the Uighurs, but much more is needed.

Because the Uighurs suffer simply because of who they are as an ethnic-religious minority, which is the essence of injustice and human rights abuse, the most pressing question government leaders face worldwide is, should the 2022 Winter Olympics in China be boycotted? There are two sides to this question. First, the pro-side states that given the cumulative history of human rights abuses in China, both past and present, China does not deserve to be rewarded and should be boycotted forthright. The opposing side argues that boycotts deprive athletes of an opportunity they sacrificed and worked their entire lives for and that they can actually draw more attention to the issue through political statements and protests during performances and interviews.

While I am sympathetic to Olympic athletes and the sacrifices they endure to compete at the highest levels nationally and internationally, theirs does not create an overwhelming sense of obligation that overrides the human trauma, suffering, indignity, and injustice suffered by an oppressed ethnic minority. In fact, in the face of the argument against boycotts, which I mentioned above, released a powerful article on February 4, 2021 titled, 180 human rights groups urge boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics. The author cites the following which challenges world leaders to do the right thing right now:

The coalition said its members and other human rights advocates have “repeatedly sought to inform” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about the reported abuses for two decades, noting it “refused to listen in 2008,” when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics.

“As human rights experts predicted, this decision proved to be hugely misplaced; not only did China’s human rights record not improve but violations increased substantially without rebuke,” the coalition states. “Now, in 2021, we find ourselves back in the same position with the IOC who are refusing to act despite the clear evidence of genocide and widespread and worsening human rights failures.”

Thirteen years later, more recorded state-sponsored horrors and atrocities than ever before, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) gets rewarded with another Olympics cash cow? I'm confused...the world is confused! How dare the IOC enrich the Chinese government given its gross moral failure and an impoverished track record of human misery and ethnic destruction! The unmitigated inhumanity suffered by the Uighurs is indefensible and defies not only American ideals, but everything the United Nations has stood for since its inception. Perhaps my outrage is misdirected; maybe the object of my outrage should be directed squarely at the IOC for China's unjust and undeserved reward. Whatever the case, tyranny against the Uighurs has no historical, political, or legal justification whatsoever and must be challenged by the world court of public opinion and investigated by the UN Human Rights Council.

John Locke's Second Treatise of Government has much to say about this blatant abuse of power and government authority. Locke writes the following in Chapter XVIII. Of Tyranny:

§. tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to. And this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private separate advantage. When the governor, however initiated, makes not the law, but his will, the rule; and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge covetousness, or any other irregular passion.

§. 201. It is a mistake, to think this fault is proper only to monarchies; other forms of government are liable to it, as well as that: for wherever the power, that is put in any hands for the government of the people, and the preservation of their properties, is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny, whether those that thus use it are one or many...

§. 202. Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another's harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another.(1)

Locke's words are timeless and the perfect challenge to CCP tyranny and oppression against the Uighurs. For a country that seeks to be treated with full rights and access to all the benefits of the world over, China must show a basic understanding of and respect for foundational moral and legal principles upon which the authority of the State is predicated. In essence tyranny, then and now, is hostile to civil society and incompatible with government for and by the people upon which it was meant to serve and protect.

China's history of denying the obvious when it comes to prolific wrongdoings and the COVID-19 pandemic of today are obvious examples of CCP treachery, tyranny, and corruption, a pattern of practices which continues to haunt the world more than a year later despite CCP impunity. Until China's government restores confidence in the institution of government, its leadership, and humanity's conscience against human evil, I find no basis whatsoever that justifies China hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics. In fact, I fully support a boycott of the Olympic games as an act of global compassion against China's blatant brutality and defiance against UN standards of accountability and humane treatment of ethic minorities. Moreover, in the absence of cooperation from China, I would argue that Americans and all freedom loving peoples worldwide boycott all Chinese products until the inhumanity ends and dignity is restored to the Uighurs in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Uighur Humanity Now!...U I G H U R H U M A N I T Y N O W!


  1. John Locke: Second Treatise of Government, Macpherson, C.B., Editor, 1980.

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