An ethnic Uighur demonstrator takes part in a protest in Turkey against the persecution of Uighurs in China. This persecution is but one reason why the Beijing Winter Olympics must be boycotted. CNS photo/Murad Sezer, Reuters

Charles Lewis: Let’s not make same Olympic mistake

  • October 20, 2021

In Judeo-Christian terms we speak about the notion of abetting evil. A Catholic doctor will not only refuse to perform euthanasia but will not refer the patient to someone who will. The referral is a form of abetting evil; paving the way for the act to happen.

In broader terms I think abetting is also ignoring what we see in front of us. In other words, doing nothing when our actions could alleviate an evil. Both the Old and New Testaments remind us of our duty to the poor, the widows and the orphans.

Psalm 82 is just one example. “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

This leads me to another more global issue. It’s one I don’t think we can ignore. This has to do with our participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, which is just a few months away.

To put it bluntly: Canada should not go. We cannot plead ignorance to what is going on in the repressive Communist state.

Some background:

In 1936 the world went to Berlin to compete in the Summer Olympics. There were those who argued that countries should boycott the Games because of Nazi Germany’s horrific racist policies against Jews and others and the country’s suppression of all opposition parties.

By the time of the Games Dachau had been built to deal with Germany’s problems citizens. It didn’t take much to be labelled a political enemy; any criticism of Hitler, no matter how mild or how true, was beyond the pale.

But many of those in favour of sending athletes to Berlin argued that sports and politics should not mix. To call what was going on in Nazi Germany “politics” was pathetic. And as evidence showed at the end of the Second World War in 1945, Nazi politics meant mass murder.

Now to China.

I’m sure there will be those who say that politics and sport should not mix and, besides, the athletes have worked so hard to compete in what is considered the pinnacle athletic competition.

But some things are more important than skiing and figure skating.

China’s regime is totalitarian. There is no dissent allowed. That would be bad enough. But now it is involved in the worst kind of ethnic cleansing.

This from a recent report from the Council on Foreign Relations:

“The Chinese government has imprisoned more than one million people since 2017 and subjected those not detained to intense surveillance, religious restrictions, forced labour and forced sterilizations.”

There have also been reports of torture and rape.

The report noted that a “coalition of nearly 200 rights groups argues that participating in the Beijing Olympics would be turning a blind eye to these abuses and could be seen as an endorsement of the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian rule.”

The International Olympic Committee has declared itself neutral on what it calls political issues.

Washington has labelled what is going on in China as genocide. You would think that the word “genocide” would be enough not to go. There have been calls in the United States to boycott these games but no decision has been reached yet.

Meantime, our governing party is stepping lightly around the issue. In February of this year all opposition parties along with a few Liberal backbenchers voted 266-0 to declare China’s actions as genocide. Most Liberals, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet ministers, abstained.

The BBC reported at the time: “Trudeau has so far been hesitant to label China’s actions against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang a genocide, calling the term ‘extremely loaded’ and saying further examination was needed before a decision could be made.”

Of course, this is not the totality of China’s sins.

Don’t forget the two Michaels who were held hostage on trumped up charges. Don’t forget the Protestant pastors jailed for running house churches for the rebellious act of prayer. Remember Tibet and the suppression going on there.

Then there was the regrettable decision by Pope Francis to agree to let China have a say in appointing bishops. It was meant to give the Catholic Church some protection from harassment. But guess what? China ignored that agreement.

Some will argue we need China’s business. Because, after all, money is more important than human dignity. Others will argue that engagement could bring about real change in China.

After all, it worked in Nazi Germany.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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