Care about human rights? Demand a boycott of the Beijing Olympics!

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JONATHAN S. TOBIN, JNS

 Why won’t the United States and its allies confront China over its genocide of the Uyghurs? Everyone’s afraid of Beijing, and nobody wants to cost multinational corporations a lot of money. That’s the most obvious explanation for the willingness of the civilized world to simultaneously acknowledge that the most egregious violations of human rights—involving murder, rape, forced sterilization, enslavement and forced population transfers away from their homes—that is going on inside China while also doing nothing about it.

To his credit, during a four-hour virtual summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Joe Biden mentioned the question of human-rights abuses in Xinjiang province where the Uyghurs are being oppressed, as well as China’s ongoing criminal behavior in Tibet and its suppression of the democracy in Hong Kong, which it had pledged to respect when the British gave up their former colony. But his gentle reminders of these atrocities while trying to smooth over relations with the man he referred to as his “old friend” (the sort of obsequious gesture towards a hostile regime that was always harshly criticized when former President Donald Trump did it), stopped short of indicating that he was actually going to treat genocide as something worth more than a rhetorical gesture.

Indeed, that’s the best Biden is willing to do even though the West has a perfect opportunity to exert some leverage over China in the next few months.

Beijing will be hosting the Winter Olympics in February, and the Communist Party regime is treating the extravaganza as yet another opportunity to assert both its dominance and legitimacy on the world stage. The threat of a boycott of the show by the United States with or without its allies joining in the effort could have forced China to make at least some gestures towards ending its crimes against the Uyghurs—not to mention standing down from its threats to Taiwan, whose air space it has overflown as part of an intimidation campaign.

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