No Rights, No Games
The Olympic Games have been inspiring people all over the world for decades. But all too often, the high-profile sporting event has been overshadowed by horrific human rights violations that happen in the immediate proximity of the Games. Today, people look back with horror on the 1936 Summer Games in Nazi Germany. However, the International Olympic Committee also failed to act in 2008, when the Summer Games were held in Beijing, or in 2014 in Sochi, despite the aggressive policy of the Russian government towards its neighbours. Next year, the Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing again despite Xi Jinping's crackdown on human rights. Against this background, calls for a (diplomatic) boycott of the Games are growing louder.
While the US government is expected to announce such a diplomatic boycott by the end of the month, the EU has (once again) missed its chance. And it was a very important chance, because it was an opportunity to show its colours and stand up for what is right.
The European Parliament has spoken out very clearly on human rights issues in relation to the Beijing Olympics; yet there has only been radio silence from the other institutions. However, the EU must do more, especially now, to urge government officials to make the right decision and not participate in next year's Games. Given the ongoing human rights violations committed by the Communist Party, this should be the bare minimum. The EU cannot simply stand by and watch Xi Jinping's repressive policies while risk being used for the regime's propaganda machine. This is not about politics or national interests, but about respect for basic human rights. A very clear message must be sent; systematic human rights violations are incompatible with the idea of the Olympic Games and the values of the EU.
The most recent example of repression and censorship, is the case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. The top athlete has not been seen in public since she posted on social media that former Vice Premier of the PRC Zhang Gaoli had sexually abused her. While the regime never tires of spreading its propaganda, many assume that Peng, meanwhile, is being held incommunicado and cannot speak freely.
With this new case, it has once again become clear how the Chinese regime deals with anyone who dares to voice any kind of criticism - even if it is one of its top athletes. Peng Shuai was extremely brave to speak out about what she had to experience and the world public owes it to her to support her and demand transparency. But unfortunately, her fate is not an isolated case, but part of an elaborate system of oppression. Uyghurs, Tibetans and Hongkongers suffer daily under Xi Jinping's censorship and repression. Their fate requires the world's attention to the same degree. Government officials owe it to the people to stand up for the rights of those who can no longer speak for themselves. That is why we must unite in calling for a diplomatic boycott by all democratic states.