In 1974, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to hold the Games of the XXII Olympiad in Moscow, the capital of what was then the Soviet Union. Sparked by opposition to the Soviet Union’s renegade foreign policy in Afghanistan, and by that power’s refusal to let its Jewish population immigrate to Israel, the United States led a massive boycott of the Olympics.
Many of the countries in the free world — 62 in all — joined the boycott. The Soviet satellites reluctantly trooped to Moscow, along with teams from nations which did not wish to offend the masters of the Kremlin. Those countries which stayed away organized the competing Freedom Games. The Soviets retaliated some years later by boycotting the Los Angeles games in 1984, but were able to strong-arm only 14 countries into joining them.
We seem to have lost some of our international chutzpa in the intervening years. When the IOC again decided to give the Olympic privilege to a nation known around the world for oppression and corruption — the People’s Republic of China — America’s response was not outrage but weak acquiescence. President Bush has announced that he is headed to Beijing to participate in the opening ceremonies. Although he promises to bring up the issue of religious freedom in private, his presence on the podium for the whole world to see will constitute an endorsement of the present government.
The human rights abuses committed every day by the Beijing regime against its own people are not only brutal, but reflect a systematic assault on human dignity, freedom, and the basic human rights that Americans in the past have so often defended. Some examples of these human rights violations are:
Since the late 1970’s, China has had a one-child policy, heavily enforced by government officials through quotas, forced abortions, and forced sterilizations. PRI’s research has shown that this policy has led to countless maternal deaths, infanticides, and devastating sex imbalances.
The right to free speech is not respected, with the Chinese Government holding thousands of political prisoners without charge or trial, including democracy activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, religious leaders, journalists, and trade unionists. The Internet is policed, and ideas that conflict with the Communist party line are censored and those who promote them are tracked down and punished.
Religious freedom has been consistently denied the Chinese people. Religious groups like the Falun Gong have been subjected to persecution, torture, incarceration, and death. Catholicism and other forms of Christianity are suppressed, and the faithful are forced to attend official, state-sanctioned churches. Many seek out underground churches, risking imprisonment or worse. In addition, ethnic groups like the Tibetans are routinely oppressed and persecuted.
Workers’ rights are not respected. Millions of Chinese workers are subjected to inhumane and unhealthful working conditions and hours, with very little compensation. According to a 2007 report put out by the National Labor Committee, the workers in the Kaisi Metals Factory were paid $24.33 for a 77-hour work week. When laborers in factories like this one are injured or killed, there is very little compensation, if any, paid.
This is not a record deserving of the Olympic Games.
Proponents of the Beijing Olympics argue that allowing China to host the Games will transform China from one of the foremost violators of human rights into one that respects international standards of human rights. The Beijing regime itself has made promises to improve its human rights record.
Instead, the run-up to the Olympics has been rife with additional abuses as the regime seeks to stamp out all dissent prior to the arrival of thousands of foreign journalists and tourists. In all likelihood, the Olympics will only serve to give credibility to a corrupt regime and embolden a one-party dictatorship that is quickly becoming a world superpower. The 2008 Beijing Olympics will do nothing to improve conditions in China, but will serve as a “coming-out” party for the current dictatorship, closing the books once and for all (or so the leadership hopes) on the Tienanmen Massacre of 1989.
This is why the Population Research Institute has joined the Beijing Boycott Coalition, a one-of-a-kind group of interested people and organizations dedicated to speaking out against the Games. This group invites activists and groups of all backgrounds to join us in protesting China’s ongoing human rights violations. The hope is that the coalition can reach across the political spectrum and unite people in a single goal: to make it clear to China that acceptance into the international community does not come from a hypocritical hosting of the Olympic Games. Rather, this acceptance should come when all Chinese are able to proudly say, with the rest of those who live in freedom, that they, too, enjoy inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.