The Winter Olympics is just a few short months away. As athletes buckle down and train harder for the Olympic gold, human rights organizations and lawmakers are ramping up the pressure to boycott the games.
What is irking many is the venue of the Winter Olympics – China.
Right from the torch lighting ceremony held at Olympia in Greece, protestors have been calling attention to the plight of the Uyghurs, China's oppression of Tibetans, and the country's atrocious human rights violations. Despite the U.S. and other countries recognizing the detention and repression of the ethnic population of Xinjiang, by China, as genocide, the country remains the chosen host for the prestigious competitions.
The fact gains significance in the light of events from 1993. Then China failed in its first attempt to host the mega sporting event. The NYT reported then, "Beijing's candidacy appears to have fallen victim to China's human rights record and arguments by Western politicians and human rights groups that a Government that continues to repress dissidents should not be rewarded with the honor of holding the 2000 Olympics."
Almost three decades later, Beijing's human rights record is worse. The country's aggressive actions threaten peace across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea. Those who believe allowing Beijing to host the Games would vindicate the country's actions want to "punish" China and call for a complete boycott.
It is safe to say there are grounds for such a demand. For, the 2020 Olympic Charter states: "The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."
China is skating on thin ice. Recently, Peng Shuai, a Chinese professional tennis player, went missing a fortnight after making allegations of sexual assault against a former vice-premier of China on the social media platform Weibo. The international community, especially tennis players and the Women's Tennis Association, continues to demand news about the athlete.
Yet, the country is merrily banking on the pride and prestige hosting the Olympics presents. It is a time to bask in the world's attention, boost the economy, and raise the nation's profile. Beijing is counting on successfully completing the Games to rebrand its image after exporting a notorious pandemic from its shores.
The Games are already under the shadow of the pandemic. Though travel restrictions have eased considerably since the Summer Games in Tokyo, in 2020, outbreaks and infections are raging in many parts of the world. Reports of new clusters within China, the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, and resulting lockdowns periodically emerge, despite the highly censored media in the country.
The top thirteen sponsors have ignored the demand to boycott the Games, including multinational corporations like Coca-Cola, Intel, and Visa. For them, it is a numbers game, above all else. China is one of the world's largest markets and suppliers of goods; it would not do to get on the regime's wrong side.
However, powerful governments are taking note of the voices of the people. President Biden has openly said that the U.S. is considering a "diplomatic boycott." Unconfirmed reports suggest many others may follow suit.
A diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games would be a snub that China cannot overlook or wish away. It will be hard to cover up the absence of prominent world leaders and dignitaries at the much-viewed opening and closing ceremonies.
According to its website, the International Olympic Committee's vision is "to Build a Better World through Sport." More thought and deliberation must go into choosing who hosts and where the Games are held to do that.
Staying away from the world's most celebrated sporting event, without denying the athletes their chance to compete on the world stage, sends a strong message to China – there will be repercussions for its actions.
European and U.S. lawmakers congratulated Taiwan on opening its office in Vilnius, while China warned Lithuania about the consequences of its actions.
It is the nation's only overseas representative office named "Taiwan" in Europe and the second one after the Taiwan Representative Office in Somaliland, which opened last year. Taiwan's other missions in countries with which it does not have diplomatic relations use the name "Taipei.
China condemned the move.
On Thursday, a Chinese spokesman said that despite China's strong objection and repeated warnings, the Lithuanian government still allowed Taiwan to establish the office, which has flagrantly violated the "one China principle" and Lithuania's political commitments when building ties with China.
All migrants from the improvised camp on the Polish border have now "voluntarily relocated" to a nearby logistics center.
On Friday, Polish police and border guards published drone footage of the now-empty site near the Belarusian town of Bruzgi. Previously, Belarusian officials said all camp residents "voluntarily relocated" to the center due to "deteriorating conditions." In another sign of easing tensions, Iraq said hundreds of Iraqi nationals had been repatriated from Belarus.
Both the Kremlin and Belarus' strongman President Alexander Lukashenko denied any wrongdoing and accused Warsaw of treating the migrants inhumanely by not allowing them to apply for asylum.
In an interview with the BBC, Lukashenko once again dismissed the accusations of orchestrating the crisis. However, he said it was "absolutely possible" that some members of the Belarusian troops were helping the migrants.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said he requested military assistance during his first trip to the United States.
Speaking to journalists at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington on November 19, a day after meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Reznikov said that Ukraine had "powerful" ground forces but needed to enhance its air and naval capacities to deter Russian threats.
Reznikov declined to name the weapons he is requesting from the United States, saying only that in order "to stop [Russian] aggression, we need to show the cost will be too high."
His trip to Washington, organized at the last minute, comes amid reports Russia has kept as many as 90,000 troops stationed near its border with Ukraine following the conclusion of military exercises, raising fears of another possible invasion.
Zhang Zhan's family says her intermittent hunger strike in prison has put her life in danger.
Zhang recently won a major press freedom award for her "notable contribution" to press freedom after she reported from the front line of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) honored Zhang -- whose family says she is close to death in prison after months of refusing food in protest at her sentence -- with its 2021 Prize for Courage. The group awards the prize to those who have "displayed courage in the practice, defense or promotion of journalism."
Dozens of activists and rights groups, including the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) and Human Rights Watch, signed a petition calling for her immediate release.
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