'Genocide Games': Mock opening ceremonies and boycotts scar the face of Beijing 2022 amid Uyghur abuse
A masked Xi Jinping look-alike will be crowned "champion of genocide" by activists gathering for a mock opening ceremony in London on the eve of the Beijing Olympics. Uyghur supporters will adorn him with gold medals representing each of his genocidal acts, as activists around the world gather to decry a sports event that has now been dubbed the "Genocide Games."
Few games since Hitler's notorious propaganda coup in 1936 have been tainted by an abundant amount of controversy and ill-feeling as the Olympic Games Beijing, set to start on Friday, February 4.
Doubts and protests already abounded when the bids were in for Summer 2008, citing China's human rights record disqualifying it as a contender. But Beijing won the day with reassurances from the IOC that the award would be a catalyst for improved human rights.
"Evidence submitted along with the complaint [for the IOC to revoke the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics] reportedly proves that a number of crimes against humanity are taking place, such as mass sterilisation, arbitrary detention in internment camps, torture, repressive security and surveillance, and forced labour and slavery"
Not long after the successful games, however, the heavy-handed quelling of riots in Xinjiang's capital and according to observers, the massacre of innocent Uyghurs during the July 2009 unrest, proved the IOC wrong.
Hundreds of Uyghurs were mown down at the dead of night after a day of rioting and looting protesting the deaths of two Uyghur factory workers in inner China and life for the Turkic people of China's most North Westerly province has not been the same since. The writing was on the wall for worse to come.
Then came the 2022 Winter Games that nobody wanted. Oslo, a hot contender, was handed a 7000-page document of requirements and a list of prima donna-esque demands for luxury treatment during the Games, which included free alcohol at the stadium and a cocktail party with the king – Norwegian media decried this as a "pamper fest " for the IOC.
Despite being a clear favourite, in the end, support for the $5.4 billion bonanza left more than half the population cold and the IOC was left to choose Beijing over Kazakhstan from the two remaining contenders.
But the 2015 choice could not have been less obvious for rights campaigners watching the deteriorating situation for Tibetans and Uyghurs in China. The year 2016 heralded one of the darkest periods of their history with unrelenting crackdowns, mass arrests, disappearances and human rights abuses that many nations in the democratic world are now deeming a genocide.
Calls to move the Games came thick and fast, beginning with an August 2020 direct challenge to the IOC from the World Uyghur Congress through human rights lawyer and director of Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, London barrister Michael Polak, on the grounds of "verifiable evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity taking place" against Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in China.
Submitting the complaint through the IOC Ethics Commission directly to President Thomas Bach, he claimed that awarding Beijing the Games was in breach of the Olympic Charter and "tarnished the reputation of the Olympic movement."
"Evidence submitted along with the complaint reportedly proves that a number of crimes against humanity are taking place, such as mass sterilisation, arbitrary detention in internment camps, torture, repressive security and surveillance, and forced labour and slavery," he said.
But calls were snubbed by the IOC and a subsequent 180-strong human rights group open letter in February 2021 calling for boycotts fell on deaf ears. This was despite concerns by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the IOC was neglecting its due diligence by not conducting a human rights assessment of the Games.
“The IOC knows the Chinese authorities are arbitrarily detaining Uyghurs and other Muslims, expanding state surveillance, and silencing numerous peaceful critics,” said Sophie Richardson, HRW’s China director. “Its failure to publicly confront Beijing’s serious human rights violations makes a mockery of its own commitments and claims that the Olympics are a 'force for good.'"
As calls for a boycott grew louder, but ultimately failed, simultaneous evidence that a genocide was being carried out against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang became impossible to ignore.
"However Beijing weathers this Olympic storm, outrage is growing around the world over its treatment of the Turkic people on its western flank. The fact that western TikTokers have been recruited at vast expense by Beijing to polish its tarnished image speaks volumes for a government whose own voice has been drowned out by victims"
A trickle of former camp detainees found their way to the West with damning stories and academics who had been busy scouring Chinese government websites found incriminating evidence in plain sight. America was the first to declare a genocide in January 2021, followed by the parliaments of Canada, Lithuania, the UK, Holland and most recently France. Australia, Turkey and Germany are still holding out.
The Uyghur Tribunal in London declared the atrocities in Xinjiang a genocide in December 2021, following eighteen months of deliberations, hundreds of thousands of documents, ten thousand hours of background research and scrutiny of 500 witness statements.
No body of evidence has been so thorough in assessing the impact of PRC policies on a single group of people. The final historic judgement was delivered on the basis that draconian birth control policies imposed by Beijing were specifically designed to at least partially destroy the Uyghur population in China’s most North Westerly region.
Despite the failure of the boycott campaign, interest began to grow instead, in a diplomatic boycott of the Games on the grounds of human rights abuses. Lithuania was first to step up in early December 2021, followed by the United States, Australia, the UK, Canada, Belgium, Denmark and Estonia. Japan, hedging its bets, stopped short of sending top officials due to human rights concerns, but would send Olympic officials anyway; and New Zealand, Austria, Slovenia, Sweden and the Netherlands, under cover of Covid concerns would not, they said, be sending diplomats.
As the final countdown begins, campaigning groups are scaling up their efforts to raise the incongruity of a world sporting fixture against the gruesome backcloth of torture and death.
Mailshots to the 13 companies embedded in corporate sponsorship, including Coca-Cola, Visa, Airbnb and Intel, which together are projected to have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor the 2022 Beijing Olympics, are said by HRW to have been shafted with only one company replying. For fear of repercussions from Beijing, they feign ignorance or neutrality.
Canadian supporters of the Uyghur cause are planning a full-blown alternative opening ceremony by setting up a podium across from their Chinese embassy. An angel of death will present medals to an effigy of President Xi.
Activists from the Stop Uyghur Genocide campaign in the UK, have picketed companies, successfully lobbied the government, marched through London and held countless vigils outside the Chinese embassy in London. Jewish groups young and old are on board given their shared history of genocide; Tibetan and Hong Kong groups, youth movements, and Christian human rights groups are unstoppable in their campaigning efforts.
Protesters who dared to disrupt the lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece were removed, and Uyghurs in Istanbul marched seven miles through the city waving placards of the lost and disappeared and railing against the silence of Ankara. American skaters Timothy LeDuc and Evan Bates risking the wrath of Beijing, have even put their own careers on the line by daring to condemn the Uyghur situation.
The show will doubtless go on amid the maelstrom of disgust, despair, grief and fury. China will wow the world with its flamboyance and resilience to opposition and its dauntless fortitude against the ever-encroaching spectre of Covid. Spectators are banned, and competitors will huddle in Covid bubbles against the threat of infection which will dash their Olympic hopes in seconds.
However Beijing weathers this Olympic storm, outrage is growing around the world over its treatment of the Turkic people on its western flank. The fact that western TikTokers have been recruited at vast expense by Beijing to polish its tarnished image speaks volumes for a government whose own voice has been drowned out by victims and their supporters competing to be heard.
The author is writing under a pseudonym to protect her identity