The Genocide Games
Updated: Jan 31
By Shari Gordnier
In July of 2020, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking to postpone or relocate the 2022 Beijing Winter Games if China did not end its genocide of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. The IOC responded saying it must remain neutral on all global political issues. The IOC maintained that it is committed to the human rights outlined in the Olympic Charter and the 2020 “Recommendations for an IOC Human Rights Strategy”, however, their failure to act on the 2022 Games does not reflect the protection of human rights. By allowing the 2022 Winter Games to continue the IOC is complicit in genocide.
Sportswashing is when a state hosts an international sporting event in order to distract from bad press and increase its government’s reputation. The 2022 Beijing Olympics pulls international attention away from the egregious human rights abuses and acts of genocide committed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, Inner Mongolia, and throughout the entire state. Commentators and human rights advocates alike have dubbed the 2022 Beijing Olympics “The Genocide Games.”
Currently, in Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has imprisoned over one million Uyghurs in internment camps. In these camps, Uyghurs are subject to torture, forced sterilization, sexual violence, and CCP propaganda.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that title has been given, as the 2008 Beijing Summer Games were also called The Genocide Games. In 2008 much of the attention was on the cultural genocide of Tibetans; while there were protests around the globe over the games, they continued as scheduled. The situation in Tibet has continued to worsen since the 2008 Games with new programs of cultural genocide that make it harder for Tibetans to practice religion, erase the Tibetan language, and forced relocation efforts. Now, the 2022 Games are set to continue not only with the ongoing issues in Tibet, but also under new anti-democratic policies in Hong Kong, cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, and the Uyghur Genocide.
The Olympics are a time of celebration, comradery, and international unity, genocide should not be able to hide in its shadow. Leading up to the 2022 Games, Genocide Watch will be publishing a series of blogs covering the linkages between genocide and the Olympics to highlight the lack of response from the international community to the Uyghur genocide and advocate for better human rights advocacy from the IOC.
The Olympics are a symbol of what we as an international community are able to accomplish when we come together. The Olympic Charter states that “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” At the Games, people from around the world come together to compete and build community with each other.
By allowing the Games to take place in a country that is actively genociding its citizens the IOC is throwing away its goals and dirtying the legacy of peaceful competition and celebration of humanity it is meant to be.
Shari Gordnier is an Early Warning Analyst at Genocide Watch
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Genocide Watch