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Beijing Eyes Tokyo

The brigade of Chinese athletes and other personnel, totaling 777, at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games on July 23. Photo: Xinhua

The mission for Team China in Tokyo is perhaps not just beating rivals but also observing and possibly acquiring Japan’s playbook for how to let in foreigners and host a sporting pageant amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Any experience or lessons will surely be brought to bear as Beijing counts down to its Winter Games in less than 200 days. 

Apart from sending hundreds of athletes to the Olympics, China also dispatched sports and health officials and members of the Beijing 2022 Olympics organizing committee to Tokyo. Their job is to compare notes with their Japanese peers on policies and practices to prepare the Chinese government on how to open borders and manage risks.

The main aim of this operation is to ensure the virus will not spoil China’s showcase event or curtail the enjoyment for athletes and fans. 

Read more at “Beijing eyes Tokyo as 2022 Games draw near”

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Boycott of Beijing 2022 Winter Games

Visitors to Chongli, one of the venues for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, pass by the Olympics logo in Chongli in Hebei Province.

A coalition of 180 rights groups called for a boycott of next year’s Beijing Winter Olympics tied to reported human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in China.

The games are to open in one year, on February 4, 2022, and are set to go forward despite the pandemic.

The coalition is composed of groups representing Tibetans, Uighurs, Inner Mongolians, residents of Hong Kong, and others.

The group has issued an open letter to governments calling for a boycott of the Olympics “to ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government’s appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent.”

 Rights groups have previously asked the Switzerland-based “International Olympic Committee” to move the games from China. The IOC has largely ignored the demands and says it’s only a sporting body that does not get involved with politics.

The groups said because of the Ionics inaction “it now falls on governments to take a stand and demonstrate that they have the political will to push back against China’s reprehensible human rights abuses.”

Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics, which it promised would improve human rights in the country. Instead, the groups say the prestige of the Olympics has led to “a gross increase on the assault on communities living under its rule.”

The situation of the Uighurs in northwestern China has received most of the attention. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated on his first day in office that he believed “genocide” was being committed against Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities.

China has brushed off the criticisms as interference in its internal affairs and politicization of sports. It has reacted strongly to charges of genocide. One Chinese official called it the “lie of the century.”

Since 2016, China has swept a million or more Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities into prisons and indoctrination camps that the state calls training centers, according to estimates by researchers and rights groups.

People have been subjected to “torture, sterilization, political indoctrination and forced labor” as part of an assimilation campaign, according to former residents and detainees, as well as experts and leaked government documents.

China at first “denied” the existence of the internment areas. It later acknowledged them, but denied any abuses and says the steps it has taken are necessary to combat terrorism and a separatist movement.

“The IOC refused to listen in 2008, defending its decision with claims that they would prove to be a catalyst for improved human rights,” the letter says.

As human rights experts predicted, this decision proved to be hugely misplaced; not only did China’s human rights record not improve but violations increased substantially without rebuke.

An ice sculpture of 2022 Winter Olympics mascot Bing Dwen Dwen and 2022 Winter Paralympics mascot Shuey Rhon Rhon is seen on Zhongyang Street (or Central Street) on December 28, 2020 in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province of China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

A design picture of the National Speed Skating Oval for long-track speed skating in Beijing at the 2022 Olympic Games. Image: China Daily

Tokyo’s re-jigged plans to host the 2020 Olympic Games this summer will be watched closely in Beijing as the Japanese capital presses ahead with the athletic event despite unrelenting local and global Covid-19 outbreaks.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sought to quash speculation about another postponement of the event. “Resolve is not dampened and the games will take place this July,” he said.

Tokyo’s organizing committee president and former prime minister Yoshiro Mori has reaffirmed that the delayed games would be held “in a safe and secure way for all the participants this summer that fits the post-coronavirus world.”

Logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters in Shinjuku Ward is pictured in March 2020 when postponement was being discussed. Photo: AFP/The Yomiuri Shimbun

How many medals China’s athletes will grab at Tokyo’s muted event is of less importance to Beijing than Tokyo’s success in staging the event. That’s why Beijing is keen to send observers to compare notes with their counterparts in Tokyo.

While watching closely how Tokyo will fare amid the pandemic, Beijing is quietly drafting a “Plan B” for its high-stakes Winter Games, now just a little over a year away.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a number of venues built for the February 2022 extravaganza scattered across Beijing and its snow-capped suburban highlands.

Xi touted progress in preparations and said he was more convinced than ever that the Beijing 2022 Winter Games would be a “howling success.”

Xinhua noted in a feature about Xi’s “personal guidance” for the Winter Games that Covid-19 must not be allowed to upset plans for the biggest international sporting event in the country since Xi came into power in 2012.

“The pandemic struck when preparations of the Winter Games headed into the final-stage home stretch in early 2020, yet under the strong leadership and auspices of President Xi, construction of all sites was completed in time by the end of last year and other work is progressing well without any delay,” the report gushed in propaganda fashion.

Xi told officials in Beijing and organizers of the Winter Games that Covid must not be allowed to upset plans and schedules. Photos: Xinhua

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach also assured in his New Year’s message to Suga and Xi that the Tokyo 2020 Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games would be the body’s top priority for 2021.

“We at the IOC have started at the beginning of this year to prepare for the upcoming 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. And there, really all are on board. We see the strong commitment and determination of our Chinese partners and friends, and all the Olympic venues are already ready for the best winter sports athletes in the world,” Bach said.

That said, in a sign of the Covid-19 times, members of Xi’s retinue, construction workers and organizing committee staff all wore masks and spaced themselves apart throughout Xi’s inspection of the grounds.

Unlike previous tours of Winter Games venues, Xi did not make a sortie into the ski resort of Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei province, which is now on a “wartime footing” battling the biggest new Covid outbreak in the country.

Chinese state media reports are also scant on details about how Beijing will receive the droves of foreign athletes, representatives, journalists and spectators next year, including those from nations still significantly affected by outbreaks. China currently requires all visitors to undergo 14 days of quarantine before moving freely in the country.

As such, Xi may now have to sign off on a contingency plan with measures to ensure and enforce mask-wearing, thinned-out crowds and staggered admission and competitions.

The Chinese leader is known for his penchant for big bang events, as seen in the slew of chest-thumping military parades and feel-good celebrations held since he assumed office. However, the threat of Covid-19 may have forced him to agree to scale down the games, which will mark the tenth year of his leadership tenure.

“Beijing is set to become the only city to have hosted both summer and winter Olympic games, but the Chinese capital is highly unlikely to swing the door open to receive all foreigners next February as it has to take no chances,” said Eric Mer, a Peking University associate professor of public administration.

“Although by then there may be glimmers of hope as wider vaccination of global populations may be achieved, there is no guarantee it can change the course of the pandemic in just 12 months to the extent that the entire world can bid good riddance to it. The resurgence that first hit Beijing and then doing the rounds in Hebei since the beginning of the year has also awakened the central leadership to the fact that risks are always lurking and Covid is set to ebb and flow in China.

Organizers may have been told to turn away most foreign attendees and roll back the scale and limit domestic attendance, but still, postponing the games is not an option for Xi,” he said.

Taking a page out of Tokyo’s Olympic playbook, viable options for Beijing include mandatory and repeated virus testing for foreign athletes before and on their arrival, priority inoculation schemes for all workers and volunteers serving the event, and vaccine donations to some countries to immunize their entire delegations.

It is also reported that Beijing may grant entry permits only to participants from countries in Asia where cases are tapering off, but all arrivals will be put in quarantine.

Beijing has shelled out hundreds of billions of yuan for the sprawling and modern venues and infrastructure for the Winter Games. Photo: Xinhua

While capping attendance and stepping up checks to keep the virus at bay, it’s increasingly unlikely that Beijing will recoup its heavy investment in the 2022 Winter Games.

China has not made public its budget for the games but factoring in the cost of the many cavernous, state-of-the-art venues, athlete villages that sprawl over several square kilometers as well as a high-speed rail link between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, it is estimated that the total investment will run into hundreds of billions of yuan.

China will have the opportunity for downsized test runs. Western China’s Chengdu is set to host the “World University Games” in August and alternative arrangements have already been made for quarantined and pre-approved overseas athletes to play to empty stadiums to prevent contagion.

In September 2021, cities in the eastern Zhejiang province will also host the “Asia Games” but the attendance of that event has been downsized as well.


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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

A new debate in the British Parliament calls to boycott the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. A coalition forming to protest atrocities in Xinjiang offers hope that the CCP crimes will no longer be ignored.

The British government has Beijing roundly in its cross hairs following a debate in parliament urging sanctions over its treatment of Uyghurs. A petition garnering international support with almost 150,000 signatures precipitated the session, which was attended in person by members of parliament from every political party and corner of the British Isles, who spoke vehemently and persuasively of the need to act against China.

The number of debates and strength of feeling among members of the UK Parliament concerning atrocities meted out by the CCP against its citizens has grown in size and intensity over the past two years, since the scandal of organ harvesting of political prisoners was raised two years ago, and demands for sanctions have escalated.

Uyghur exiles asking, “Where are our relatives?” They have had no contact with their loved ones for more than three years.

This comes in the wake of another pivotal gathering of the UN Human Rights Council recently, where Germany on behalf of 39 countries made a statement, calling out Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and demanding “unfettered access” to the Xinjiang region, based on “increasing numbers of reports of gross human rights violations.”

Turkey stepped off its wavering fence this year, and joined opposition to Beijing with ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioğlu expressing concern. “As a country having ethnic, religious and cultural ties with the Uyghur Turks, we have been particularly alarmed by the recently published reports and news on human rights practices against the Uyghur Turks and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” he said.

Support for the Uyghurs in the UN has grown markedly since last year’s July assembly when only 22 nations opposed CCP’s policies. But Beijing was ready this year to counterattack, having primed a total of 70 countries to back them up. Pakistan had rallied 55 countries in support of China’s actions in Hong Kong, and Cuba 45 countries to support the CCP efforts in Xinjiang, with Kuwait making a parallel joint statement on behalf of three Gulf States.

China described attempts to “smear its human rights record” as doomed to failure. They were “despicable,” “poisonous,” and “standing on the wrong side of history,” they said, which echo strongly Xi Jinping’s conviction voiced recently that his policies on Xinjiang are successful and he was not going to back down.

Other international alliances have been forming in attempts to stem the tide of China’s relentless disdain for world opinion. In September, a coalition of 160 human rights groups delivered a letter to the “International Olympic Committee” (IOC) urging it to revoke Beijing’s hosting of the Winter Olympic Games. IPAC, the “Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China”, an international cross-party group of legislators working towards reform on how democratic countries approach China, headed by UK parliamentarian Sir Iain Duncan Smith, is also campaigning to see the sporting event moved.

Roadside posters leaving dissenters in no doubt of their fate should they demur.

A Washington Post editorial in September suggested that China should be stripped of the Winter Olympics. “The world must ask whether China, slowly strangling an entire people, has the moral standing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics,” it said. “We think not.”

Leading the UK debate in London, MP Chris Evans Islwyn, in the face of Beijing’s disregard of world opinion, urged for Magnitsky sanctions to be imposed by the UK on Chinese officials implicated in the Uyghur scandal. “The suffering that the Uyghur Muslims have undergone, and sadly continue to undergo is nothing short of horrifying,” he said, detailing the fears of the Diaspora now severed from their families, the harrowing tales of beatings, torture, rape and mass sterilizations, destruction of their language, culture and religion, and now the mass deportation of former camp detainees to work as forced laborers all over China making goods for Western brands.

“The image is dystopian,” he said. “The surveillance is total.” He went on, “Uyghur Muslims do not have the right to their religion, to their bodies, or to freedom of expression. The system is policed through directives given to officials in Xinjiang. The directives do not mention judicial procedures, but call for the detention of anyone who displays so-called ‘symptoms’ of radicalism or anti-Government views. The international community should be gravely concerned,” he urged.

Citing the US government’s implementation of Magnitsky sanctions against Russian human rights violators in 2012, and the UK’s own version devised earlier this year, he pointed out that already it had been used to sanction the killers of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, organizations implicated in forced labor in North Korea, and the very Russian officials who were allegedly involved in the mistreatment of Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail.

“The Magnitsky sanctions are effective, because sterling is a valuable global currency to hold,” he pointed out. “By having their assets frozen in Britain, sanctioned individuals are unable to have assets or continue to do their business.” The remit of the sanctions include no longer being allowed to enter the country or to own residences, and encompass people who act on behalf of a state to violate other human rights, such as the right not to be subject to torture, the right to be free from slavery or forced labor and, above all, the right to life.

Without exception participants in the debate asked why Britain was dragging its heels on sanctions. “China is undeniably an economic powerhouse, but we cannot let its strength in world economics shield it so as to allow atrocities and human rights violations,” urged Chris Evans, concluding that the time to act had come.

The time for mere “outrage,” expressions of “grave concern,” and just speaking out against human rights abuses, was over, he suggested. “We have an abundance of evidence in the form of leaked documents, satellite imagery and the harrowing testimony of victims. We cannot continue to listen to the mounting evidence and do nothing substantial with it,” he said.

Ploughshares into medieval weaponry, for ordinary every-day folk in Xinjiang… now guarding each other.

Many of the British MP’s calling for action pointed to the USA, whose Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 set a new bar for trade with China and goods produced with forced labor. Its Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, passed overwhelmingly on September 22nd, went a step further to ensure that U.S. entities are not funding forced labor among ethnic minorities in the region. Imports that have even a hint of slavery in their supply chains, are banned under the new legislation and the UK MP’s demanded Britain follow suit.

Responding to a welter of persuasive rhetoric from thirteen other MPs demanding fearlessness and maintenance of moral high ground against Beijing’s bullying and subversive tactics vis a vis not only Uyghurs, but Tibetans and more recently Southern Mongolians, Nigel Adams, UK government Minister for Asia admitted that the British government was not blind to the atrocities. “We are committed to responding robustly to all human rights violations in Xinjiang,” he promised, citing the government’s leading role within the international community to hold China to account.

While remaining vague on an expansion of the scope of the UK Magnitsky provision to include China, which in the final analysis was in the hands of the UK Foreign Secretary, he went so far as to state, “China must immediately end extrajudicial detention in Xinjiang, and uphold the principles of freedom of religion or belief, freedom of speech, and freedom of association for every single one of its citizens.”

He confirmed that any action taken on behalf of the British Government against Beijing, would always be in the context of national values. “As the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have made clear, we want a positive relationship with China, but we will always act to uphold our values, our interests, and our national security. We are crystal clear with China when we disagree with its approach,” he stressed.

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