Drone footage shows Chinese police herding hundreds of blindfolded and shackled Uyghur men at a train station in south-east Xinjiang, China estimated to have occurred during Aug. 2018. Photo// The Guardian.
As the world is about to put Beijing in the spotlight for the 2022 Winter Olympics, China is still keeping its dirty secrets of human rights abuse against Uyghurs in the shadows.
On February 4th, millions will tune in to witness the opening ceremonies of the 24th Winter Olympic Games. In a demonstration of harmony and national pride, the opening ceremonies are likely to include joyous displays of dance, choirs of children, and conclude with the illumination of the Olympic cauldron.
However, after the stadium in Beijing is illuminated, the abuses of the Chinese government against the Uyghur population and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities will remain in darkness.
A 2020 report from the U.S. Department of State on religious freedom in the north-western province of Xinjiang estimates that since April 2017 the Chinese government “has detained more than one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Hui, and members of other Muslim groups, as well as some Christians, in specially built internment camps or converted detention facilities.”
Under the veil of its national counterterrorism laws, there is substantial evidence that China has subjected masses of these ethnic and religious minorities to forced disappearance, political indoctrination, and torture. Reported abuses include forced sterilization, sexual abuse, and forced labor.
Those who are not detained are likely to be monitored by the Chinese government’s expansive system of surveillance and subject to uncompromising social regulation laws enforced by an ever-growing state police force.
Despite major players in the international community, including the United States and the United Nations Human Rights Council, condemning China’s abuses of Uyghurs, some are disconcerted by how the world has unreluctantly moved forward with this winter’s Olympics in Beijing.
Speaking at a Human Rights Watch online press conference on Friday, Jan. 28, activists representing persecuted Chinese minorities urged international attendants to speak out against China’s hosting of the games.
“The 2022 Winter Olympics will be remembered as the genocide games,” said Teng Biao, a former human rights activist in China who is now a visiting professor at the University of Chicago.
“The CCP's purpose is to exactly turn the sports arena into a stage for political legitimacy and a tool to whitewash all those atrocities,” he said, referring to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
“Your silence is their strength,” added Lhadon Tethong, director of the Tibet Action Institute.
“Use your platform and your privilege and this historic opportunity,” she said. “You have to speak out against the wave of genocide.”
The U.S., Australia, and Britain will not send an official government delegation to Beijing during the Games in a diplomatic boycott.
Though many athletes feel they should not be used as geo-political pawns because they have no control over where the Olympics are held, NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom said a diplomatic boycott is not enough. Freedom urged athletes to independently refuse to participate in this winter’s Games.
In an interview with Fox News’s Sandra Smith, Freedom said, “China’s communist party does not represent the Olympic core values of excellence, respect, and friendship…. All the athletes need to go out there and say, ‘enough is enough — I am not going to a country where a genocide is happening.’”
In September 2019, a video verified by Nathan Ruser, a satellite analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, shows Chinese police herding hundreds of blindfolded and shackled Uyghur men at a train station in south-east Xinjiang.
China has repeatedly denied any such abuses with its Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin recently claiming that several human rights organizations are “biased against China and keen on making mischief.”
It may be hard for some to enjoy this year’s Games knowing that somewhere west of Beijing there’s potentially hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens in internment camps being persecuted for their religion and ethnicity.
With the backdrop of genocide, the skiing, figure skating, and bobsledding will perhaps not be seen as such innocent and joyous events for many this winter in Beijing.
To learn more about China’s attack on Uyghurs, check out Aljazeera’s 2020 award winning online interactive story “Living the Unknown”: https://ajcontrast.com/uighurs
Sources: The United States Department of State, The Associated Press, Fox News