David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.
At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.
As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.
Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.