Don't Let the Bright Lights of the Olympics Blind You to the People Suffering in Its Shadows

Bob Fu is Senior Fellow for the International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council. Arielle Del Turco is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Epoch Times on Februarry 16, 2022. 

While millions of people around the world were watching the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in the very same city the ceremony was taking place, Xu Yonghai was being put under house arrest at a motel.

Xu is an elder at his house church, Beijing Holy Love Fellowship, and he has had no shortage of run-ins with Chinese authorities. As the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) puts on a propaganda show like no other at the Olympics, the world must remember the innocent Chinese people, like Xu, who suffer under the CCP’s repression.

Notably, Xu won’t be released until Feb. 21, the day after the Olympic closing ceremony. What did this psychiatrist, who was educated at the prestigious Beijing Medical University, do to deserve being robbed of his freedom of movement? Xu is and has long been unpopular with the CCP due to his social activism. He formerly spent two years in prison for his leadership role in a Christian house church.

Sadly, this kind of house arrest or detention during politically-sensitive dates has become a normal routine for some Chinese dissidents. Other occasions on which Chinese authorities make a concerted effort to clear dissidents from sight include the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, China’s National Day on Oct. 1, and the annual session of People’s Congress.

You don’t have to look too far outside the Olympic spotlight to see why communist China should never have received the honor of hosting the Games.

In Xinjiang, authorities are carrying out a genocide via the forced sterilization of thousands of Uyghur women and the abortions of their unborn children. More than a million Uyghur people are detained in internment camps, experiencing torture, rape, medical experimentation, and forced labor.

Meanwhile, churches all across China are facing mounting religious restrictions, Falun Gong detainees are being utilized as a source of forced organ harvesting for transplants, and the pro-democracy movement in the freedom-loving city of Hong Kong was successfully crushed by the CCP’s recent national security law.

The CCP goes to great lengths to obscure its human rights violations. And the Olympics is a propaganda opportunity like no other. Bringing the most prestigious sporting event in the world to China’s capital undermines efforts to hold the Chinese regime accountable for its behavior.

There was a movement to boycott the 1936 Winter and Summer Olympics, which took place in Nazi Germany (though the worst Nazi crimes were yet to come). Today, we know more about the CCP’s crimes against humanity than we did of the Nazis’ in 1936.

Yet the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has demonstrated marked unconcern about human rights issues in China, saying it doesn’t get involved in politics. But it’s not a political statement to oppose genocide—it’s a human one. For the IOC, and the democracies that failed to get the IOC to move the Games out of China, the 2022 Olympics are a shame.

Attempts to “sportswash” China’s human rights record started right off the bat when a Chinese athlete of Uyghur descent, Dinigeer Yilamujiang, was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron. It’s inherently exploitative to use a Uyghur athlete in this way while the CCP is actively carrying out a genocide on the Uyghur people. After lighting the cauldron, Yilamujiang was promptly ushered out of the spotlight. It’s a painful spat in the face of millions of Uyghur victims languishing in concentration camps and their loved ones around the world who just want them to be safe.

Under house arrest at a motel, Xu Yonghai won’t be allowed to see his wife for nearly three weeks during the Beijing Olympics. But when will the millions of Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang be free to see their families? Or the imprisoned house church pastors or human rights lawyers?

As China projects images of its power through the Olympics, remember that millions of innocent people are suffering in the shadows.