Opinion: Should the United States be boycotting the Olympics?


Credit: Theodora Ghosh

WSPN’s Bella Schreiber discusses the controversy over the 2022 Winter Olympics being held in Beijing and China’s violation of human rights.

Every four years, around 206 nations gather together in a country to participate in a worldwide sports festival called the Olympics. Although winning is an individual players’ goal, the overall job of the Olympics is to help bring the world together.

This year, the Winter Olympics and Paralympics will be held in Beijing, which has caused some nations, like the United States, discomfort and uncertainty. It was uncovered that the Chinese government has been running reeducation camps or “vocational training centers” for many years. These detention centers target Muslims, most specifically Uyghurs, and force them to change their religion. Because of this, the U.S., U.K. and many other countries have decided that as a protest, they will not be sending a diplomatic delegation to the Olympics this year.

The Biden administration has decided to administer a diplomatic boycott as opposed to a full boycott, which would include the boycott of all the U.S. athletes and teams. The last full boycott in the Olympics occurred in 1988 when North Korea and its allies skipped the Seoul Olympics.

Because of it only being a diplomatic boycott, the U.S. and many others have decided that they will still be sending their athletes and teams to participate. To some, not sending official government delegation to Beijing during the Games is not enough.

Boycotting the Olympics is a bold move, especially considering that it is a worldwide event that has taken place since 1896. This year, many will be boycotting the Paralympics and Winter Olympics, which will have skating, skiing, snowboarding and much more.

At a recent White House briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki made it clear that they would not be standing for the genocide going on in China. “U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual…and we simply cannot do that,” Psaki said. The Biden administration wants to send a very clear message that they will be acting on these issues, including keeping the ban on certain things imported from China.

There has been evidence suggesting that women are being forced to use birth control, get sterilized and have abortions. On top of that, there have been many reports of sexual assault, abuse and much more.

Adding to that, the American government also believes that the Chinese government has been using artificial intelligence surveillance technology to use facial recognition on Muslims to immediately label them as “normal,” “of concern” or “dangerous.” This targeting against Muslims and the forcing of women to get abortions and birth control leads many to believe that the Chinese government is trying to wipe out the Uyghur population.

Furthering my questions, the government has been refusing to give any information about the centers and has been preventing journalists and foreign investigators from finding out more about them.

Recently, there have been quite a few survivors coming forward and sharing their experience, as well as documents from around 2019 revealing information about the centers from the Chinese government that were leaked. So why do we still not have enough information? Why have the U.S. and other countries not done more?

Boycotting the Olympics should just be a start. Although the U.S. is doing a lot, we could be doing much more. The U.S. could gather other like-minded countries and have them stop or slow down their trade with China. This would lead China to hurt economically, which would help influence them.

Another thing the United States could do is counter China at the United Nations. Although it would be a hard battle, having the U.S. in front of it might help other countries be more open about their support towards the Uyghurs. One last thing we could do is focus on helping the Uyghurs, instead of going against China. We could do this by being more open to refugees which would provide them with a chance at a new life.

Boycotting the Olympics is the right choice. Hopefully, the actions of the United States will keep influencing other countries and make them think twice about sending political representation to Beijing this year.

Although the thought of not being able to watch my favorite athletes participate in the Olympics is disappointing, I believe it is more important to send a clear message to China. Maybe it’s time to put our feelings aside and realize that lives are at stake. It is cruel of us to be dwelling on missing a few Olympic games instead of putting our time and energy into helping others.