Beijing successfully bid to host the Winter Olympics of 2022 back in 2015. Since then, a lot has changed. In recent years, the human rights violations currently taking place in China and the Uyghur genocide have begun to make national headlines, and the Uyghur Tribunal concluded recently that China is guilty of committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims. As all of this has come to light, the Beijing Winter Olympics have been met with controversy and widespread concern.
This isn’t the first time that a country has hosted the Olympics while simultaneously being accused of genocide. Today, it is often called “Hitler’s Olympics” or the “Nazi Olympics”. In 1936, three years after Adolf Hitler came to power, the summer Olympics were held in Germany. Reports began to surface that the Nazi mistreatment of Jewish people had worsened substantially and the United States began to debate if they should attend the games. Jeremiah Mahoney, who was the president of the Amateur Athletic Union at the time, led the efforts to boycott the 1936 Olympics hosted by the Nazi regime. He did this because he believed that participating in the Olympics indicated endorsement of Hitler’s Reich and their horrendous actions. However, despite great efforts, the United States participated in the Olympics, with the exception of a few Jewish athletes who protested or were sidelined, reportedly, to not insult Adolf Hitler.
It is important to note that the Holocaust and the Uyghur genocide share similarities but are not the same.
The Peace Project, in partnership with Campaign for Uyghurs, Jewish World Watch and Jewish Movement for Uyghur Freedom has created The Berlin-Beijing coalition. Berlin Beijing is an interfaith, bipartisan group that is collectively fighting to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide of the Uyghur people. Our goals currently include: an international diplomatic boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics, holding sponsors accountable, and educating people about the role of the Olympics in genocidal regimes.
The Nazi regime utilized the Olympics for propaganda purposes, to convince the world that they were doing no wrong, and promote their antisemitic and racist ideals. Unfortunately, as we know, the Nazi regime would go on to commit mass genocide and kill roughly 11 million people.
Maybe, Jeremiah Mahoney was right, and Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime saw the participation of countries in the Olympics, despite the widespread dehumanization, mistreatment, and violence towards Jewish people in Germany, as a sign that countries endorsed his antisemitism, and no action would be taken against Germany as they committed mass genocide.
Momentum within the international community has been built over years in fear of this day. Uyghurs, Tibetans and activists have been tirelessly pushing for action and accountability surrounding the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Due to these efforts, the United States and 14 other countries have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Meaning, they will not be sending any diplomatic officials to Beijing. The last time the United States boycotted the Olympics was in 1980 when the Summer Olympics were in Moscow and they were one of 66 other countries to do so. That boycott was in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and neither diplomats nor athletes attended the games.
This boycott is slightly different, as the athletes are still going to compete, there just won’t be any diplomats there. So, what’s the point of a boycott?
The hope of the boycott is two things: 1) bring attention to the atrocities that are being committed in China currently, and 2) send a message that United States officials know what is happening in China and disapprove. China has continuously denied committing genocide and has spread propaganda internationally that Uyghur Muslims are not being kidnapped, tortured, and abused. When the boycott was announced, Chinese officials again denied committing acts or having any knowledge of genocide and stated that the United States was politicizing sports, and attempting to promote confrontation
Much like Hitler’s Olympics, the CCP has used the Olympics and plans to continue using the Olympics as a way to spread propaganda promoting their ideals and deny the mass violence that is currently occurring. Olympics also help to boost the economy of the country they are held in, which is vital to the CCP’s continuation of utilizing economic leverage to convince countries to either deny that they are committing genocide, or refuse to take action against them.
The diplomatic boycott is an important step by the United States to spread information to the public about the atrocities happening in China, and announce their disapproval of the Chinese government’s actions. Hopefully, this action will send the message that the United States government, and other countries that choose to boycott, are holding the Chinese Communist Party responsible for genocide, and will continue to do so in the future.
While it’s an important step, it’s one of many that need to be taken to stop the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in China. Another step that could be taken is by individuals. Boycotting the Olympics can be done in your own homes. Simply, don’t watch, and show your support for the Uyghur people who are being persecuted in China.
Here is our request: turn off the Olympics. Then, go a step further and ask your community to turn off the Olympics. Talk to friends, family, local businesses, and others who might plan on watching. Tell them why, and make the Uyghur genocide a topic of conversation in the process.
Some may feel threatened; some may not care enough to turn them off; some will thank you for giving them the knowledge they needed to take a stand. Through all of it, know that the resistance you experience is being felt by millions of Uyghurs and activists around the world. Share their burden, and stand in solidarity.
Read more about the Uyghur Genocide and the steps that need to be taken to address this crisis by learning about our Uyghur Initiative.