By Tenzing Dhamdul
If one were to ask the Olympics committee and individuals involved why the games are held, they would give varying answers but all would align to morality, human spirit, Human dignity and sportsmanship. However, if one were to apply this to the 2022 Beijing Olympics it becomes hard to gauge and understand how the host city and its government imbue these characteristics. These games are a pinnacle of the sporting world and witnesses true inspirational human story but it is of no surprise that modern day economics has impacted the ethos of these games and its even not a surprise to see the International Olympic Committee (IOC) supporting the propaganda narratives spewed by Beijing for their own mere financial benefit forgoing their humane ideals.
Sports diplomacy, a venture vaunted by Beijing
The Beijing 2022 is line with the larger sport diplomacy that Beijing is pursing these days. This was at full display as during the 2021 Copa America football tournament (oldest football tournament between nations held in South America) where when they were facing covid troubles, Beijing seized the moment and sent 50,000 doses of Sinovac (Chinese made Covid vaccines). And in turn was granted appreciation and acknowledgement from arguably the world’s greatest football player who also took part in the tournament Lionel Messi (in the form of sending his signed shirts directly to the Sinovac company). The question though remains as to how one manipulated and planned out good act can wipe the many wrongs? and Beijing truly has a bag of many wrongs that it carries along everywhere especially in its inhumane treatment of Chinese, Tibetans, Uighurs, Taiwanese, Inner Mongolians, Hongkongers and even people who speak against them and are beyond their jurisdiction.
Why Beijing was granted the games:
Let us focus on Beijing 2022 and how its hosting the winter Olympics games is gradually drawing similarities to the 1936 Berlin (Summer) Olympics which was notoriously known as the Hilter games. This game unlike anything seen before was driven with the sole aim to shown Aryan supremacy over other and as a current spectator is highly questionable as to why the games took place in the first place. Most likely since Hilter had not shown his true intention then (1939 he starts the 2nd world war) and many nations of the free world visioned Germany to take forth and imbue the Olympic spirit which the founder Pierre de Coubertin saw as a way of which wars could be avoided, generate peace and create camaraderie. This method though failed in reality as subsequently the world was to witness and embroil itself in the 2nd world war. The current IOC seems to hold this yardstick to China as well because the 2008 Beijing summer games was won on such a notion. Many members of the IOC stated that right now would be the perfect time to assimilate China to the global world and increase its transparency and way of life through these games.
The reality of the Beijing games 2008:
How wrong were the members to place its hopes on China when it came to the spirit of the Olympic games? Because through the 2008 Beijing games under the motto of One World, One Dream the Olympics games it all started to unravel. Huge number of protests from Chinese occupied lands and the minority region started gaining fuel because of all the international attention and media coverage to China. Tibet, an occupied nation by China witnesses unprecedented number of protests with the images of civilian unrest becoming the image to international media throughout the world. Many parliament halls of the nations debated as to whether they would participate in such a game where though their nations athlete would be competing for glory and gold, how could they compete is the very grounds and establishment they were competing in were erected from the bloods of many. Both the IOC and Beijing were under tremendous pressure and we can witness how within China itself a growing number of individuals started asking questions none more prominently than the renowned Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei who along with others designed the famed Bird nest stadium that would be the main ground/stadium for the Beijing games. Ai Weiwei believes the games were just propaganda for the ruling party and states “The Beijing games have oppressed the life of general public with the latest technologies and a security apparatus of 700,000 guards”1 which is nearly the current population of Switzerland he further added “I became disenchanted because I realised, I was used by the government to spread their patriotic education and since the Olympics I have not looked at the stadium”. These numbers given on 2012 is only on the rise and shows the sheer amount of security personals that Beijing uses. Just imaging a whole nation like Switzerland being only security guards is revolting and frightening to say the least. The true irony here is how this very stadium would be holding both the opening and closing ceremony of the 2022 Beijing winter Olympics.
Not fulfilling promises and after Beijing 2008:
With the general uproar taking centre stage here the IOC and Beijing came together and made some agreements as to how moving forward, the Chinese government would see to it that respect of human dignity, liberty and freedom of expression would be upheld. This gentlemen’s agreement calmed many political factions of the world as they now believed how China would change and transform by learning out from its mistakes and come out as a better nation. Yet the hopes were misplaced as since the games the crackdown on Tibet and other occupied regions grew to unprecedented levels. Particularly in Tibet one was to witness self-immolations in protest to the Chinese government that begin from 2009. This number of self-immolators has been frequent and nears 2 centuries now, this act which is seen as the last resort to raise one’s voice in an oppressed nation bares the fact as to what the Tibetans living under the hard hand Chinese regime is experiencing.
Furthermore, numerous protests have occurred in Tibet against the dictatorial policies implemented in Tibet that not only invades the general socio-economic life but cause great distress and disruptions to the way of life. Those raising their voice here have been met with arbitrary detention, arrest, torture and even disappearance of many Tibetans.
The Tibet policy being a template:
These activities propagated in Tibet brought a template which the rulers in Beijing could implement to other regions within their jurisdiction. And it has been in full throttle since president Xi Jingping has come to power. These draconian policies of iron clad surveillance and security, demolishing religious institution, setting up labours camps much like the concentration camps for Jews during the Holocaust is implemented in great vigour in Xinjiang where the Uighurs people face what they Tibetans have been and are currently facing. It has also seen its usage in Honk Kong as since 1997 Beijing has gradually moved toward tighter and more pro-Chinese policies much to the anger of the Honk Kong people.
Similarly, the art of these hard hand approaches that have Beijing through practice in Tibet is now flowing into the world and people are starting to take notice of it. The wolf warrior diplomacy is one that Beijing staunchly follows and is evident from its dealing with the European Union and also with the border talks with India especially after the escalation at Galwan valley last year.
The Peng Shuai saga illustrates Beijing’s priority of party above anyone else, including humanity and human rights
The 2nd of November was a normal day under the azure sky and it was followed up with my regular tennis practice, however a sneak peek into twitter revealed to me the shocking news of Chinese national tennis star Peng Shuai being allegedly sexually assaulted by the former Vice-president of China, Zhang Gaoli. What followed suit however astonished the whole world, which was the complete incognito of Peng Shuai. The united voice of the world especially the human rights advocate and miss Peng supporters who raised this issue initially and the wave of support towards miss Peng from the tennis fraternity right from the top tennis stars to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) really made this an issue that the world could not ignore anymore because on top of the eventual disappearance, the sexual assault by a top Chinese official must definitely be looked into.
It is a known fact to all that since the Communist party came into power, they have ignored human values and rights to the people it governs. And though Beijing tried to change under Deng Xiaoping, the bubble burst when the Tiananmen square massacre occurred for the whole world to see. The Communist party of China retreated after this incident. However, since the advent of the 21st century with China’s rise as an economic giant, the world has gradually adapted to look the other way when the CCP commits such heinous crimes. During this period the people living under this regime experienced life in its harshest form with the Chinese, Tibetans, Uighurs, Hongkongers, Taiwanese bearing the brunt of this new reality. The disappearance, targeted killing, scapegoating was all used by the regime to shut down any form of criticism towards them and the current Peng Shuai disappearance is just the tip of the glacier when it comes to such incidents.
The youngest political prisoner in the world, the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet, (the 2nd highest spiritual leader of Tibet) Gendhun Choekyi Nyima recognised by the Dalai Lama vanished immediately after the announcement and has not been seen or heard by the public since 1995. Similarly, the sudden disappearance of charismatic and outspoken Chinese businessmen Jack Ma who also has not been seen by public since last year are just a few among several and similar incidents when the current Chinese government have used their authority without any regard to human rights in oppressing entities and individuals who manifest as a thorn to their ideal and perfect party outlook/image.
The CCP governs every 6th person of the world with the majority of people under them living in constant fear and surveillance, very much embracing the role of Big Brother (in the famous dystopian novel “1985”) it brings into question as to whether we as humans in this world can ever rely upon them? Are we to still give them the benefit of the doubt for mere economic gains? I believe we as humans are still in the phase of trying to understand China. This is shown by the recent kowtowing by both the NBA and the IOC when it faced issues with the CCP head on. However, this incident of Peng Shuai which involves an alleged sexual harassment, crime committed by a top CCP leader, the immediate disappearance of the individual who raised her voice against this crime shows very clearly that the CCP renowned in censoring such news is losing its touch. Furthermore, the world is also gradually taking note of this with President Joe Biden stating that China like the rest of the nations must work by the Rule of the Law when he met President Xi Jinping in an online conference recently. The strong stand taken by the current WTA Chairman Steve Simon who is willing to sacrifice financial gains and cut ties with China so that justice can prevail here indicates to us all a certain shift occurring here when it comes to dealing with the CCP. This is further backed by the United Nations also enquiring Beijing about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai.
There has been immense development regarding the disappearance of Peng Shuai with a letter, photos and even videos of her being circulated from the state media in twitter and other social medias. The most recent being the IOC president Thomas Bach himself interacting with the concerned victim but without any representative from the WTA, the tennis body that has stood up for her unlike the former. However, there has not been any official and personal message by miss Peng herself to the public raising further questions and speculations on the very viability of these mediums of agencies that many view as a propaganda act.
The 2022 Beijing games gives license to Chinese authoritarian rule:
The Olympics games that would be taking place next year in Beijing after just 12 years is highly indicative of how the IOC has given a pass and free ride to Beijing even with all the repression and complete violation of human rights occurring in Tibet, Xinjiang and Honk Kong.
The nations of the world are gradually waking up from placing their hopes on China and nations like the USA and the Czech Republic have till now given call of boycotting the Beijing 2022 games. Many organizations including Tibetans and those oppressed by Beijing have come together to raise the call for the boycott of these games. This comes after IOC has opted for silence with the current president Thomas Bach simply stating that the games were not about politics. I guess though astute in his workings Mr. Bach forgot the meaning of politics as it has to do with everyday life and more so ever when representations of the nations are taking centre stage. And on 23th June, 2021 a Global Action Day to boycott the 2022 Beijing games was initiated by these groups. If we were to now allow Beijing to host these games it would surely signal to everyone but more importantly to the rulers of Beijing led by Xi Jingping that they can have things their way even when governing with such a hard hand and would further more assist in creating his intended Omnipotent legacy in China.
The Olympics games have had its fair share of controversy and boycotting none more so prevalent than that of during the cold war period where the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics were boycotting by US allied nations and Soviet allied nations respectively. Since then, the game has gone on smoothly and brought many inspirational stories to the fore yet since the 2008 summer Olympics was hosted by Beijing its prestige has taken a fall and it all culminates to the 2022 winter Olympics where only 2 cities bid for the games. The IOC facing its own demon must stand fast here and do the right thing as otherwise this would not only be remembered as a blood Olympics but would pay a significant role in the demise of the Olympics games.
Beijing has come a long way from the One World, One Dream (2008 Olympics motto) to Joyful rendezvous upon pure ice and snow (2022 Olympics motto) but instead of adhering to these slogans there has been a simultaneous rise of dictatorial and authoritarian government. This government is not only bringing chaos and turmoil to those governed within its border but is flexing itself beyond its frontiers. The game is going to be a litmus test to us all as to how we view Beijing and its dictatorial government led by Xi Jingping that is now on the cusp of even surpassing the horrendous crimes of Hilter’s regime. I personally feel sad for the athletes here who have trained for years for this event but are sandwiched in unfamiliar territory with the actions by Beijing as a political entity being of prime concern.
The Jews and the neighbouring European nations were largely victims of Hilter’s rule and governance then but now with Xi Jingping at the helm the Tibetans and the other minorities are in threat with its neighbouring Asian nations of India, Japan and other being under immediate threat. And slowly but surely even the whole world may be under its grasp with the frequent kowtowing to Beijing even by developed nations and big economic entities these days indicating us this unwanted scenario.
What we do now would have ramifications later on and with Beijing’s use of sports diplomacy much like Hitler now is more prominent than ever. We all should be united and make a firm stand if we ever want to stop the juggernaut Chinese Communist Party in its sprint to do what it pleases.
With the 2022 Beijing winter Olympic just around the corner and many nations already calling for a diplomatic boycott over it, with the USA under the Biden administration also stated to follow this precedent soon. This and similar initiative especially by the Inter Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) shows that people, groups, organisations and even sovereign nations are now saying enough is enough and are standing against the inhuman act by the current Chinese authorities. And with such duress even engulfing a three-time Olympian in Peng Shuai it really brings the issue on the viability of the 2022 Beijing winter Olympics to the fore. We must continue to question Beijing who continues to remain nonchalant on Peng and also on others who face similar and even worse situations compared to miss Peng. Where is Peng Shuai? Where are Human Rights in China? With the cancel culture taking the world by storm and becoming a trend, I believe we can even apply this to a stretch for the current Beijing 2022 games that goes by many names these days, none more so popular than the Genocide games.
(Views expressed are his own)
The author has studied at Hindu College, Delhi University and School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was a recipient of the Sikyong Scholarship in the year 2015.