MEPs lead growing calls for EU to boycott Winter Olympics in Beijing

Demand follows concerns over alleged human rights violations in China, and erosion of democratic autonomy in Hong Kong.
Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

12 Mar 2021

MEPs from across the political divide are leading a growing clamour for the EU and international community to boycott the next Winter Olympic Games, scheduled to be held in Beijing in February 2022.

The build up to the games takes place against the backdrop of what many European Parliament deputies say is a growing list of alleged human rights violations in China, from the persecution of Christians and the “enslavement” of Uyghur and Tibetans, to the erosion of democratic autonomy in Hong Kong.

China, it is claimed, has been openly aggressive to its neighbours, mounting an increasing number of armed flights into Taiwanese territory and continuing its policy of militarising the South China Sea off the Vietnamese and Philippine coasts.

Particular concern has been voiced at recent reports of sexual violence and rape allegedly being used by the Chinese authorities against Uyghur people in Xinjiang.

EU Member States are now being urged by MEPs to take the "symbolic act” of boycotting the Winter Olympics in 2022 while the sponsors are asked to “reassess their engagement" in the global sporting event.

The calls are being led by the European Parliament’s ECR group which says the “cruelties" in Xinjiang should be treated as "genocide.”

“We must boycott these games and send a clear message to China that their oppressive policies will not go unanswered and are in striking contrast to the Olympic spirit” ECR Party Secretary General, Anna Fotyga

ECR Party Secretary General, Anna Fotyga said, “No democratic country in the West should sit by and allow what is happening in China to continue.”

The Polish MEP added, “China’s actions against the Uyghurs amount to a genocide. Oppressions against Christians and Tibetans have dramatically increased and the arrest of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong cannot go unanswered.”

“We must boycott these games and send a clear message to China that their oppressive policies will not go unanswered and are in striking contrast to the Olympic spirit.”

She added, “The Olympics, from the beginning, have been organised in the spirit of cooperation between nations, and towards the promotion of peace around the world.”

“In the past dictators have tried to subvert this message to give legitimacy to their cause, from Nazi Germany in 1936, to the Soviet Union in 1980, and in those cases democracies have boycotted the games. The case of China in 2022 is no different.”

“Sports competitions cannot be misused by totalitarian regimes as a smokescreen for oppressive and aggressive policies.”

“China has economic power but the democratic nations of the world must take action to take the wind out of China’s sails. China is hosting the next winter Olympics and I know that while this would be a sensitive issue a boycott is something that should be discussed at the very least” Deputy leader of the ECR group, Assita Kanko

Belgian MEP Assita Kanko, a deputy leader of the ECR group, said it was “time to act” against the Chinese persecution of Uyghurs, adding, “China has economic power but the democratic nations of the world must take action to take the wind out of China’s sails.”

"China is hosting the next winter Olympics and I know that while this would be a sensitive issue a boycott is something that should be discussed at the very least.”

Speaking at an event on China and human rights at the Brussels press club earlier this week, Finnish Greens MEP Alviina Alametsa said, “We cannot stay silent any longer on China; the EU must do all in its power to end this. I am happy the EU has finally imposed sanctions and hope Member States will boycott the Olympics. We must consider all measures, including a boycott.”

In December, the European Parliament adopted three resolutions on the human rights situation in China. MEPs said then they were “deeply concerned about the increasingly oppressive regime that many religious and ethnic minorities, in particular Uyghurs and Kazakhs, are facing in mainland China.”

Elsewhere, Slovakian EPP group MEP Miriam Lexxman said, “All aspects of our external policies must be guided by the values upon which the Union was established. We must ensure that we consistently adhere to these values.”

Dutch member Kati Piri, the S&D group’s deputy leader for foreign affairs and the negotiator of December’s resolutions, said, “The atrocities being committed by the Chinese state against the Uyghur population and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region are almost beyond compare.”

“The atrocities being committed by the Chinese state against the Uyghur population and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region are almost beyond compare” S&D group’s deputy leader for foreign affairs Kati Piri

Sylvie Lasserre, a freelance reporter and author of “Voyage au pays des Ouïghours”, has travelled to the region in the past and worked on the issue for 16 years.

She also supports moving the winter Olympics to another country, arguing, “China is inspired by the Nazis in trying to eradicate the Uyghurs. It has become an Orwellian state and is committing genocide.”

In the closing days of 2020 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a new EU-China Trade and Investment Agreement which is set to remove barriers for Chinese entry into the EU single market and give Chinese companies access to investment in European companies, including state enterprises.

But the agreement has faced harsh criticism since its release – with many claiming that it undermines human rights, working standards and environmental protections.

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