HOPKINTON, New Hampshire — Human Rights Watch reports that “the Chinese government has committed, and continues to commit, crimes against humanity against the Turkic Muslim population,” including the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz. Chinese policies systemically target civilian religious minorities in Xinjiang and roughly one million Muslims are in Chinese reeducation camps. Representative James Langevin [D-RI] introduced House Resolution 812 on November 18, 2021, calling for “a diplomatic boycott” of the XXIV Beijing Olympics and XIII Paralympics due to ongoing reports of Uyghur genocide at the hands of the Chinese government.
Uyghur Realities in Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an area in the northwestern region of China with a population of about 21.8 million people, 46% of whom identify as Uyghur, “according to the 2010 census.” Xinjiang has increasingly become a surveillance state to monitor millions of Uyghurs as the Chinese Community Party labels Uyghurs as violent Muslim extremists. Chinese policies and programs aimed at “poverty alleviation” often exclude the Uyghurs and create greater workplace discrimination. “Voluntary” disappearances to reeducation centers often separate families, leaving children in indoctrinating government-run orphanages, making family reunification difficult.
Checkpoints, identification cards and “cultural erasure” suppress and spread fear among the Uyghurs and other Muslim populations. Satellite imagery shows that Chinese government policies have led to the damage and destruction of about “16,000 mosques in Xinjiang” since 2017. These actions contribute to deep terror and division between the Han Chinese population and the Uyghurs.
Holocaust Memorial Museum Uyghur Genocide Report
In November 2021, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide released a report on China’s grave crimes against the Uyghur minority. The report outlines China’s frequent participation in torture, starvation, enslavement and sexual violence as coercion tactics in hundreds of reeducation camps. The ultimate aim of these tactics is to coerce Uyghurs into denouncing Islam and confessing to crimes. Accounts of forced sterilizations, abortions and intrauterine device insertions are chilling — these practices intend to “curtail female reproductive capacity” in order to ultimately annihilate the Uyghur ethnic minority.
The Simon-Skjodt Center is “gravely concerned” about the sheer amount of information pointing to the genocide of the Uyghur people. In fact, the report states that “the seriousness of the assault on the Uyghur population demands the immediate response of the international community to protect the victims.”
H.Res 812 Explained
Since the U.S. Department of State announced China’s involvement in genocide in January 2021, anti-Uyghur persecution has become the focus of numerous congressional leaders. Olympic and Paralympic Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Langevin, Rep. Ed Perlmutter [D-CO], Rep. John Curtis [R-UT] and Rep. Elise Stefanik [R-NY], proposed H.Res. 812 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on November 18, 2021. H. Res. 812 urges U.S. government personnel to boycott the XXIV Beijing Olympics and XIII Paralympics and reject invitations to these events. Some major points of the resolution include:
- The United States’ position is that the Chinese government is committing genocide.
- Influencing the International Olympic Committee to draft standards for “disqualifying” host countries for human rights violations through a “diplomatic boycott.”
- “Diplomatic boycott” only includes all U.S. government personnel; athletes are still encouraged to attend.
- An Olympic host country that commits mass atrocities promotes a false sense of unity and inclusion to continue horrific human rights violations.
The U.S. government could end the boycott if the Olympic Committee switches host locations or if the Chinese government demonstrates a strong commitment to positively changing and taking responsibility for its atrocities against the Turkic Muslims.
International Olympic Responsibility
The values in the original Olympic Charter emphasize that the games should “encourage effort” while “[preserving]human dignity” and “[developing]harmony.” Thus, the International Olympic Committee has a responsibility to uphold these values when host countries commit injustices like genocide. Holding the Olympics in China during an active campaign of Uyghur genocide and cultural erasure would obscure the reality of Chinese mass atrocities and cast doubt on the games’ legacy of mutual respect and commitment to inclusivity.
H.Res. 812 resembles a resolution in which the European Union voted for a diplomatic boycott of the XXIV Beijing Olympics in July 2021. H.Res. 812 does not infringe upon the prerogatives of the Chinese government; it purely discourages U.S. diplomats from attending the Olympics unless China makes striking positive changes to its human rights policies in Xinjiang. If the resolution continues to gain daily support and cosponsors, then the United States would join the EU in the boycott, sending a notable message to the Olympic Committee and the Chinese government that the U.S. condemns human rights violations without exception.
– Hannah Eliason