It’s time to boycott the Beijing Olympics, according to Rep. Michael Waltz.
The St. Augustine lawmaker, on a video roundtable that included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a supportive video from former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, said it’s becoming increasingly clear the International Olympic Committee won’t move the 2022 Winter Olympics away from China. That’s despite a host of human rights violations in Tibet and Hong Kong and a genocide of the Uyghur people.
“Sending a very strong message the world is willing to turn a blind eye to abuses and allow the Chinese Communist Party to whitewash all these terrible things is unconscionable,” Waltz said.
Waltz said the preferable option would be for the Olympics to relocate to a Western nation with a better human rights record. But with the Winter Games just 11 months away, he said it’s time to take a stronger stand.
The United States should either boycott the games entirely, not sending any athletes, or to at least enact a diplomatic boycott and refuse to send any representatives of the U.S. government to the games.
Besides some of the high-profile guests at the roundtable, Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, joined the call for a boycott of the games. Waltz and Reschenthaler have already introduced legislation in the House formally demanding a boycott or for relocating the games.
Waltz also alluded to efforts by Sen. Rick Scott to convince the U.S. Olympic Committee to boycott China, but said the group remains as incalcitrant as the International Olympic Committee on the matter.
More horrifying, he said, is the willingness of many U.S. corporations to sponsor the games and keep a business relationship with China. Both Reschenthaler and Waltz contrasted professional sports boycotts, such as the NCAA threat to pull games from Florida over proposed restrictions on transgender athletes or the Major League Baseball decision to relocate its All-Star Game over a voting law, with athletes still participating in games in China.
Gingrich, whose home state of Georgia will take a blow from the MLB decision, said it’s important that U.S. corporations apply such economic influence fairly.
“You can’t tell us how worried you are about being politically correct in United States while you kowtow to a dictatorship in Beijing,” he said.
Of note, he pointed to a decision by a Democratic President — former President Jimmy Carter boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow in 1980 — as evidence of the leadership the U.S. could provide. The decision, while politically unpopular at home, led to an escalation in international pressure and a reckoning for the Soviet Union.
Waltz said it’s just as important to consider the consequences of participating in other Olympics, whether it was supporting the 1936 Berlin games as Adolf Hitler built up the Third Reich, the 2014 Sochi games before Russia invaded Crimea, or, most relevant, the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, where China used the platform to soften its international image and then embarked on a campaign of human rights violations.
At the same time, even supporters of moving the games like Scott won’t join calls for an athlete boycott.
Asked about the potential that would hurt athletes more than China, Waltz turned the floor to Tahir Imin, a Uyghur and former Chinese political prisoner, and to Zumretay Arkin, a human rights advocate raising awareness of the Uyghur genocide.
“No athlete of conscience would want to be put in that place by the IOC to choose between their careers and a country with ongoing genocide,” Arkin said.
Malinowksi said it’s worth the U.S. considering the personal safety and security of any athletes who do go to the games and protest in China.
“If the games do occur in Beijing, prepare for all the risks and consequences,” he said. “What happens when an athlete takes a knee or wears a T-shirt protesting the genocide of the Uyghurs? What happens when a corporate sponsor is asked to censor its employees? Because that is going to happen.”
Waltz encouraged any athlete, especially those participating in political protests on other issues, to speak directly with groups impacted by China’s actions.
“If the U.S. was imprisoning or benefiting from slave labor of enslaved Muslims, wouldn’t they be calling for a boycott?” he asked.