UK considering Beijing Winter Olympics boycott

Beijing winter olympics boycott
The Winter Olympics are due to take place in Beijing in 2022. Source: ahenobarbus (via. Wikimedia Commons)
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the UK may boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics due to China's alleged human rights abuses.

By Umaima Arif

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced that if there is enough evidence presented regarding the Chinese government’s “gross and egregious” human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslims, the UK may boycott the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics due to take place in Beijing.

China is currently the subject of international scrutiny due to increasing reports of severe prosecution against the Uighur Muslims, a minority ethnic Turkic population in the Xinjiang province of northwestern China.

These institutionalized abuses are allegedly part of an ongoing government program to control, limit, and forcefully assimilate the Uighurs, with some abuses justified by Chinese officials as necessary measures to stem possible “separatist violence and terrorism.”

The alleged repression began with the curtailing of religious activities, such as banning public prayers, but has reportedly escalated to forced labor, detention without trial, forced sterilisation, the separation of children from their families, and unlawful internment in “re-education camps.” 

A few of the reports citing the existence of these camps were recently confirmed by the UK, following a visit by British diplomats to the Xinjiang province.

However, despite initially denying the existence of these internment camps, recent propaganda campaigns by Chinese officials have now relabelled them as “humane” vocational training centers. 

Raab’s statement came in light of the UN human rights council on Tuesday, in which a growing alliance of 39 countries called for an independent inquiry on the subject of the Uighur people as Germany tabled a resolution supported by the UK.

The joint statement asserted that the increasing number of reports citing human right violations were evidence of “severe restrictions on freedom of religion or belief and the freedoms of movement, association and expression as well as on Uighur culture.” 

However, despite expressing the clear need to take effective action, Raab was hesitant to label the prosecution as genocide in front of the foreign affairs select committee, noting that the term required the specific intent of destroying a minority. 

Though as of yet no country has officially chosen to boycott the Winter Olympics, other nations and organizations have expressed similar concerns. Tensions between the US and China have risen in part regarding the alleged human rights violations.

In September 2020, an international coalition of human rights organizations wrote to the International Olympic Committee asking that China be denied hosting rights due to its dire human rights violations. An international alliance group of legislators on the issue of China has also been formed. 

In October 2018, the US Senator Marco Rubio made a similar request on behalf of the US-Congressional-Executive Commission on China, followed by another request in September 2020 by the US Senator Rick Scott.

The US has also begun boycotting Chinese goods and services, including those of the Chinese-owned apps Tiktok and WeChat. 

For the moment, the UK is awaiting further international consideration and investigation before announcing any official decisions regarding further actions against China, considering the economic and political ramifications of any such decision. 

Raab stated: “let’s gather the evidence, let’s work with our international partners, let’s consider in the round what further action we need to take.” 

Raab has also not yet ruled out asking Prince William to withdraw his attendance from the international sporting event. 

A public petition backing the move to impose further sanctions on, freeze the assets of or even set travel bans for specific Chinese officials responsible for the prosecution of the Uighur Muslims has amassed over 100,000 signatures, and is now due for debate in Parliament.

Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.

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