This week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved an amendment to a comprehensive bill on China that would require a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The amendment, offered by Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), would permit athletes to participate in the Olympics while withholding funding for high-level U.S. government participation in the Games. Such a move would express formal U.S. disapproval while stopping short of a full boycott—something which would dash American athletes’ Olympic dreams for political reasons, with little real impact.
While a diplomatic boycott is a worthy option, it should be a back-up plan to a superior alternative: postponing the 2022 Olympics to select a new host country.
During the pandemic, the International Olympic Committee (IOC)—the de facto gatekeeper responsible for selecting the host of the Games—made the difficult decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics originally to take place in 2020. The since-rescheduled Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021 a mere four months prior to when they were originally to be held in June 2020. The postponement of the 2020 Games demonstrates that postponement is not only possible, but preferable.
Since the U.S. government determined in January that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is carrying out ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity against its ethnic Muslim minority Uyghur population, many in the international community have been casting about for ideas on how to hold Beijing accountable.
The CCP’s ongoing campaign against Uyghurs is among the worst human rights violations taking place in the 21st century. Beijing’s mass collectivization of between 1.8 million and 3 million Uyghurs in political reeducation camps has already earned it a choice spot in the history books. But that’s hardly all. Last year, the CCP undermined the freedom and autonomy of citizens of Hong Kong, persecuted various persons of faith, and covered up key facts about the coronavirus pandemic.
In spite of all this, the IOC has held fast to its decision to let Beijing host the games. Its repeated defense of this position is that the Olympics are not political. Such claims ring hollow when the host country sees the opportunity as nothing short of a political one.
To get the Olympics moved would require the Biden administration to assemble a coalition of allies across the globe to pressure the IOC to postpone and select a new host. The recent unified efforts undertaken by the U.S., the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom to sanction CCP officials for their treatment of the Uyghurs is a good model. Such a coalition could also engage friends and allies in Asia. If that does not gain momentum, then the U.S., in concert with those same friends and allies, should impose a diplomatic boycott, among other actions. The Romney-Kaine amendment is a good way to get that backup plan on radar screens.
It’s encouraging to see lawmakers in Washington giving serious thought to how best to respond to Beijing’s wholesale human rights violations. Stripping China of its ability to host the most prestigious international sporting event is a good place to start. Doing so makes clear that the world will not overlook Beijing wanton disregard of values.
This piece originally appeared in Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliviaenos/2021/04/23/responding-to-beijings-hosting-of-2022-olympics-should-be-a-team-effort/?sh=140af5af45e7