Students should consider taking a stand against China’s recent human rights violations by boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics. In early December, the United States announced that it would not send diplomats or government officials to the Beijing Winter Games. This protest was a response to the recently reported abuses against the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority group, in Xinjiang and the anti-democratic lockdown in Hong Kong. Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom soon followed suit, saying they would not send their government officials to the Olympic ceremonies either. So far, we are still sending our athletes to the games, just not our diplomatic leaders.
A realistic way to stand against China’s reported behavior is not to watch the opening or closing ceremonies. This allows us to support the athletes who have worked their entire lives to compete at the games while not streaming the celebration of a country reportedly full of abuse and lockdowns like China.
Diplomatic boycotts are nothing new to the Olympics. The last time the United States participated in an Olympic boycott was during the 1980 Moscow Olympics due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. We pulled our entire presence — athletes, advertisements and diplomats — out of the games. However, this year’s boycott is much different from the 80s, as our athletes are still participating in the games. This allows the country to take a public stand against China’s abuses without the tension between the United States and the Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Why does all this matter to college students, particularly the Clemson community? We may forget amid our studies that we do have a say in what goes on in our country. Just a few examples of cases where current events moved young people to challenge adult society (and succeeded) are the Greensboro Four Sit-ins of 1960, Tiananmen Square of 1989 and the Black Lives Matter marches starting in 2013. Our students have even seen change initiated with several “Sikes Sit-ins,” the Women’s March against Violence in 2019 and most recently the “March For Change” of 2020. What does a boycott look like for young people this winter? Boycotting the Olympics can be whatever you want it to be. It may not seem fair to ot support the athletes (who are likely our age) who are competing at debatably the most important event of their lives. If you do not want to shut out the games entirely, you can just watch clips on YouTube or stream the Olympics on Peacock, which mainly highlights the United States athletes’ events.
However, I encourage you to boycott the opening and closing ceremonies. While it is fun to see your favorite athletes and countries entering the arena, the opening ceremonies will be a display of how great China is. They will display their history and art, while ignoring the abuse they are currently causing towards the Uyghur Muslim people. I know the Olympics are an exciting time for both athletes and viewers alike, but we must make a stand against horrific acts of abuse.