On November 2, famous Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai took to Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, claiming she had been raped by Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China. Two weeks later, she disappeared from public view.
Last week, the Biden administration, the United Nations, and civil society organizations like the Women’s Tennis Association called for proof that Peng was alive and safe and pressed for a full investigation into her allegations of sexual misconduct.
Faced with this international outcry, a video call was organized between Peng and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach. While the video confirmed that Peng was alive, it did little to confirm Peng’s safety and long-term well-being. If anything, the video call may have made the IOC complicit in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) targeting of a former Olympian.
If these “reassurances” have all been staged, it would come as no surprise. Indeed, it’s business as usual for Beijing. Parading around a dissident or targeted individual as proof that they are alive is common practice—exploiting them further to help the Chinese Communist Party save face and cover up their human rights violations.
The IOC claims that its top priority is ensuring the safety of its athletes and yet here we are, three months before the start of the 2022 Games in Beijing, and already an athlete is in peril.
Peng’s situation is yet another reminder of the deplorable state of human rights in the country the IOC selected to host the Olympics. The IOC cannot rightfully play dumb. When it chose Beijing, the world already knew about the millions of Uyghurs currently held in political reeducation camps in Xinjiang. The international community bore witness to Beijing overturning freedoms in Hong Kong after the introduction of the National Security Law (NSL) last year. Beyond this, we all endured the consequences of Beijing’s failure to relay critical information about the infectiousness of COVID-19 during the early days of the pandemic.
The Biden administration has, unfortunately, kicked the can down the road for far too long. The international community is looking to the U.S. to make the first move. The best option—for the safety of the athletes and to hold Beijing to account—would be to postpone the Olympics for the purposes of selecting a new, rights-respecting host. The Summer Olympics in Tokyo, originally slated for 2020, were moved just four months prior to the original date in the midst of the pandemic. Given that the Olympics are less than 100 days away, this option is unlikely.
At this point, a more politically feasible option would be for the U.S.—in concert with allies and partners—to announce a diplomatic boycott. This would mean no U.S. government participation—except for the minimum number of officials necessary to ensure the participation and safety of American athletes competing in the Games. A diplomatic boycott would not punish American athletes while still ensuring that the U.S. holds Beijing to account for its myriad abuses.
It shouldn’t take the victimization of a famous citizen for the free world to wake up to the threat that Beijing poses to its values. It shouldn’t take the CCP committing genocide and crimes against humanity for the IOC to realize that it made a terrible mistake in selecting China to host the world’s most prestigious sporting event.
It’s time for the Biden administration to act—for the sake of Peng, for the sake of American athletes, and for the sake of the world.
This piece originally appeared in Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliviaenos/2021/11/22/peng-shuai-yet-another-reason-beijing-shouldnt-host-the-winter-olympics/?sh=2aa5c3a7257f