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Protests Against the Beijing Winter Olympics: What Do They Mean?

After the buzz surrounding the Summer Olympics in 2021, many are looking forward to renewing their patriotism with the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. However, China has been the center of controversy as of late due to their multiple violations of human rights. Back in May 2014, China launched a campaign against “Violent Terrorism” that targeted Uyghur Muslims living in the Xinjiang region. Under an ICC report, the Chinese government has committed several human rights violations against the Turkish Muslim population, including imprisonment within detention camps, religious persecution, torture, murder and physical force labor amongst others. The violations gained increased worldly attention within the past two years when photos from the detention camps were leaked out of the country.

China’s other human rights violations against protests in Hong Kong combined with the horrors against the Uyghur Muslims has made many human rights activists demand global boycott against the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. More uproar for a boycott followed after the disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who accused a top Chinese government official of sexually assaulting her. Rather than staging a full boycott of the games, countries like the United States and Great Britain are choosing to engage in a diplomatic boycott. Government officials from any country engaged with this boycott will not be in attendance at Beijing opening ceremonies or any other official event; however, they will still send a full team of athletes to participate in the games.

The International Olympic Committee has been very strict about athletes using the Olympic Games as a stage for protest in the past. Recently, they have been more lenient towards protests from athletes being outspoken about political wrongs and rights in press conferences or on social media. This was evident during the Tokyo Olympics in summer 2021, where some athletes made symbolic gestures as a form of protest, but protesting during medal ceremonies continues to be banned. With China’s human rights scandals being unveiled, protests from the athletes are sure to be widespread. In anticipation of this occurring, China’s Olympic Committee has been very outright in expressing that athletes could face consequences should they break Chinese protest laws at the games. Deputy Director General Yang Shu from the Beijing committee issued a statement saying that any athletes engaging in protests disturbing Olympic spirit and criticizing China’s government and politics would face punishment.

While most athletes have avoided the topic of China’s violations or spoken very little about it, many spectators have expressed strong views on whether or not the games should be boycotted. Some have claimed that should the Olympics care about a country’s political history, there would be very few countries if any left to host. Other have stated that the Olympics have already started to go downhill and that it will only be a matter of time before they come to end with controversy. These same viewers believe it best to boycott the games based on morals and a good consciousness, something they say most people lack in modern times. Despite the controversy surrounding the games, this year’s Winter Olympics promise to be full of intrigue and entertainment as watchers across the globe prepare to cheer on their favorite athletes on sports’ greatest stage.

Megha is currently a second year global studies major and film, television, and digital media minor at UCLA. She has a passion for the arts, including photography, graphic design, and painting. In her free time, she loves reading classic literature, making jewelry, and learning new languages!
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