Calls intensify for a boycott of Beijing 2022

Society & Culture

Lots of people don't want China to host the Winter Olympics.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

The past week has seen a spate of editorials, speeches, and statements calling for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Canada — which sent the second-largest Winter Olympics contingent in 2018, behind the U.S. — has led the latest charge, after a Chinese court upheld the death sentence for Canadian Robert Schellenberg. Schellenberg was initially convicted in 2018 for 15 years for trying to smuggle 222 kilograms of methamphetamine from China to Australia before being given the death sentence in a one-day retrial.

Last week, Canadian Michael Spavor was also sentenced to 11 years in prison for “illegally providing national secrets.” He has been behind bars for two and a half years. Michael Kovrig, another Canadian charged with espionage, is currently awaiting his own sentencing and trial. Many observers have denounced the Spavor and Kovrig cases as hostage diplomacy, a response to Canada’s arrest and potential extradition to the U.S. of Huawei CFO Mèng Wǎnzhōu 孟晚舟.

The most significant call for an Olympic boycott has come from Erin O’Toole, the Opposition and Conservative Party leader in Canada. With Canadian federal elections next month and with polling showing public support for a boycott, it’s clear that pressure is going to intensify on the Canadian government and Olympic committee in the next six months.

Australian MPs have also written to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking for the country to diplomatically boycott the Games.

Stopping short of a full boycott, as has been suggested in Canada, the MPs from the prime minister’s coalition cited the “belligerent dictatorship with one million of their people in concentration camps housing Christians, Falun Gong, the Tibetans, the Mongolians, the pro-democracy Hong Kongers.”

They reminded the prime minister of the “propaganda value” of hosting the Olympics.

These boycott calls come at the same time as a report from the New York Times that China is planning even more stringent COVID controls at Beijing 2022.

A source inside the Beijing Organizing Committee revealed to me that they thought there was “almost a zero percent chance” that foreign spectators would be let into the country to watch the Games, due to COVID variants and a fear that international spectators could “make public political actions” during the Games.

However, the source said that “depending on the variants,” domestic fans could be allowed inside the venues, possibly to near-full capacity.

In addition, foreign athletes would not be exempt from China’s heavy border quarantine controls, without exceptions even for vaccinated athletes.


Here is a selection of some of the boycott op-eds from the past week:

It’s unforgivable to hold the Olympics in Beijing (Washington Post)

In D.C., calls to boycott China Olympics amid reports of Uyghur genocide fall flat (ESPN)

IOC accused of failure to address human rights concerns prior to Beijing 2022 (Inside the Games)

After Tokyo, Beijing Olympics promise colder weather but hotter rhetoric (Wall Street Journal)

The Olympics: A Stage For the World’s Biggest Geopolitical Debates (British Foreign Policy Group)

Jewish groups hear echoes of Hitler’s Games in run-up to 2022 Beijing Olympics (Jewish Insider)

Let’s have a global sports boycott of China (The Spectator Australia)

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.