It was on the evening of January 4 2022 protest was staged in Gangtok the capital city of Sikkim, which was organized by the members of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress (RTYC) and the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association (RTWS) under the campaign #nobeijing2022 on what has been called a ‘Day of Action’ by the protestors. Their protest was not against the state government nor was it against the Indian government but was against the Chinese government for the alleged human rights violations in China. They demanded the Indian government to boycott the winter Olympics that is scheduled to be held in the month of February in Beijing, the capital city of China.
The winter Olympics 2022 that is to be held in Beijing has recently come under spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The major western powers have started to boycott the games, notably the Americans and some of the European countries and its commonwealths. Though no countries have boycotted the games full-fledged but has done in a partial manner where the countries will not restrict its players and athletes from participating in the games but will not be sending any diplomats in the games, that includes top government officials, as is the tradition and the requirement.
The Winter Olympic Games was first held in Chamonix, France, in the year 1924 and is among the major international multi-sport event held once every four years. It is governed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and all the games are played under the rules and regulations of the governing body. The Olympic Games are thought to facilitate cooperation among the countries and contribute in building a peaceful and a better world. It states that ‘The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play’. But the host nation of the Winter Olympics 2022, China, has been alleged to portray everything that is opposite to what the games represent.
It becomes imperative here to mention that the boycott of the Olympic Games is not something that are unheard of or hasn’t been done in the past. The games have been boycotted over a period time by numerous nations on grounds of wars, invasions, human rights violations, apartheid, doping scandals and most importantly to meet the political and diplomatic agendas of the boycotting nations.
In 1956 China, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland all boycotted the Melbourne Olympics in Australia for all their own reasons. In 1964 countries including China, North Korea and Indonesia boycotted the Tokyo Olympics in Japan. In 1976 more than 20 nations mostly African countries and Taiwan boycotted the Montreal Olympics in Canada. In 1980, 65 nations led by the United States boycotted the Moscow Olympics in Russia as a protest against the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. In 1984, 14 countries led by the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics in the United States. In the year 1988 countries such as Cuba, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and North Korea all boycotted the Seoul Olympics in South Korea. All these boycotts were inspired by the protest or the disagreement of the nations in terms of wars, invasions, human rights violations, apartheid, and most notably to meet their political and diplomatic agendas. And now the Winter Olympics in Beijing has joined the rows where the major western powers has announced to boycott the games. The Winter Olympics 2022 is scheduled to be held from 4th February to 20th of February 2022 with around 3,000 athletes competing in 109 different events.
Why are countries deciding to boycott the Games?
There are numerous reasons given by different nations, some pointing out the alleged human rights violations in China committed against its minorities, other point out the non-cooperation of China in COVID-19 probe, China’s attitude towards Taiwan, Mongolia, Tibet and Hongkong.
The United States in its statement on why it decided to boycott the games diplomatically said that it was because of China’s “human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang” against its Muslim minorities.
The British said that it was boycotting the games because “The Chinese government commits industrial-scale human rights abuses in the Uyghur Region, Tibet and sends near-daily military incursions into Taiwan’s airspace. We cannot lend any legitimacy to China’s despotic regime”.
China has long been accused of committing atrocities against the Uyghur Muslim population in the northwest province of Xinjiang where it is believed that over a million Uyghurs have been detained in camps on what is being called a “re-education camps”. The evidences gathered by various international organizations, medias and testimonies by former camp detainees have found that the detainees at the camps are being used as forced labour, forcibly sterilized, tortured and sexually abused.
The 2021 annual report of the Human Rights Watch stated that “Beijing’s repression – insisting on political loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party – deepened across the country”.
The boycotting nations also point out the treatment of China against its tennis champion Peng Shuai after she made an allegation of sexual assault against former vice-premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, and a high-ranking communist party member. She was voraciously censored in China and disappeared from the public eye for nearly three weeks.
The treatment of the Chinese government against the protesters of Hongkong is also something that was not kept unseen from the international community. The Chinese government is time and again accused of suppressing the democratic voices in Hongkong and restricting the freedom of the people.
The Chinese Government’s attitude towards Tibet, Mongolia and Taiwan has long been in the headlines of the major publications around the world for many years now. Many nations do not agree with its treatment against the populations of the regions of the said nations.
All these allegations were repeated by the protesting members in Gangtok on the evening of 4th January 2022. One of the protestors while addressing the reporters said that “Hongkong is now facing a human rights violations where they are not getting freedom, similarly in Tibet, children below four years are being forcefully taken out of their houses and are being admitted in the Chinese boarding schools and being brought up in the Chinese culture and not in the Tibetan Buddhist traditions.”
“There are around 2 million Muslims in China and they are being forcefully taken into the detention centers and labour camps and are not allowed to practice their religion. Similar things are happening in Taiwan and South Mongolia” he added.
Youdon Aukatsang, Member of Parliament in the Tibetan Government in exile while talking with Sikkim Chronicle accused the Chinese government of various wrong doings in Tibet. She said that “We Tibetans have been in exile for the past 62 years and we have been in exile because our parents and their generation had to flee Tibet because China illegally occupied Tibet and people faced a lot of imprisonment, torture and death”.
“For the past 62 years we have been campaigning against China and the Beijing Olympics is a big opportunity where China is showcasing its prestige, its economic power and might and this is really the right time where we all stand against injustice, repression and torture” she added.
How has China been responding to the allegations?
China has been denying all the allegations made against its government and has consistently been denying any wrong doings in Tibet, Taiwan or any other regions. It has repeatedly denied human rights violations against its minorities. The government termed the Hongkong crisis its “internal matter” and warned the other nations not to interfere in it.
While making the statement against the diplomatic boycott by the United States, China’s Foreign Ministry said that the US had “clearly violated the Olympic Spirit”, and “will pay a price for its erroneous actions”.
How has the IOC responding to more and more nations boycotting the games diplomatically?
Though the committee has declined to make any political statements however the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said that “the Olympic Games must be beyond all political disputes”.
Seeing at past records it is unlikely that such boycotts will harm the games or will delay or result in relocating the games venue but it is certain that the boycotts will definitely harm the prestige of China and its might in the world. It is also unlikely that China will take any actions against the boycotting nations but if it does so it may come as economic and trade sanctions.
On questions relating to whether India will boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022, India has made it clear that it will not boycott the Olympics and expressed their support to China in hosting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. India would refrain for taking any swift actions against China as it shares the borders with the country and any decisions may result in heightening of tensions between the two nations.