Surprise: Western Sponsors of Beijing Olympics 'Ghosting' Human Rights Activists

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Posted: Jan 26, 2022 10:25 AM
Surprise: Western Sponsors of Beijing Olympics 'Ghosting' Human Rights Activists

Source: Screenshot via Fox News

The Olympic Winter Games in Beijing begin in a matter of days, and foreign athletes and journalists alike are being advised not to bring any personal electronic devices into the country, due to expected espionage and privacy intrusions by the host regime.  And in an effort to head off any demonstrations drawing attention to the Chinese Communist Party's myriad human rights abuses and other crimes, government apparatchiks are warning participants that they'll face "punishment" if they do.  When you bestow a prestigious event like the Olympics upon an authoritarian regime, this is what you get.  I hope the International Olympic Committee members are proud of themselves.  Sadly, they probably are.  Still, it's pretty extraordinary that the IOC made this choice:


Massive, long-documented human rights abuses and minimal-to-no snow?  Let's give them the winter games.   Some news and media organizations are scaling back their in-person footprint in Beijing, or not showing up at all.  That may seem heartening, but this report suggests those decisions may be more about COVID and budgets than grand moral stands.  The Biden administration and other Western nations are engaging in a diplomatic boycott of the games, but it very much looks like any hopes for an embarrassing rebuke of the CCP by corporate sponsors was a pipe dream.  As is the case so often with Western companies and Chinese injustices, they're looking the other way.  Sorry, human rights activists:

Once the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing more than six years ago, Mandie McKeown and her colleagues at the nonprofit International Tibet Network got right to work. McKeown had already gone through one pre-Olympics cycle of protesting China’s human rights abuses, back when Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games. Now, as the ITN’s executive director, she set out to get a meeting with the IOC and the Olympics’ corporate sponsors. Instead, McKeown told me, her group was met with radio silence from “basically” every sponsor. As for the big, United States-based brands like Coca-Cola, Airbnb, and Procter & Gamble? “No response whatsoever,” she said. “They’ve entirely ghosted us.” Other activists and human rights researchers also have not been able to make much headway. Yaqiu Wang, a senior researcher on China at Human Rights Watch, said the companies will often deflect from specific issues and speak generally about their support for human rights—if they respond at all. 

Now Uyghur advocacy groups, working alongside Tibetans, Hong Kongers, and other targets of Beijing’s authoritarian crackdown, are fighting to have a voice ahead of the Olympics. “Beijing brings a whole slate of different activists, and they’re bolstered by the human rights groups that are now making sports a bigger part of their portfolio,” Boykoff said. Their first opportunity to get a substantive response from the Olympics’ corporate sponsors came in July when representatives from five IOC sponsors—Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Intel, P&G, and Visa—were called before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, an independent government agency that monitors China...At the hearing, every company reiterated its commitment to human rights; they all even cited the same United Nations “guiding principles” on business and human rights. But only one company, Intel, even mentioned the Chinese government’s repression of Uyghur Muslims in its prepared statement. Everyone else avoided the issue...

It's a sad state of affairs when a company receives plaudits for simply acknowledging a genocide, rather than skirting around the issue.  Would any of these corporate entities dream of 'entirely ghosting' BLM activists here at home?  How would the media and athletes react to that?  Dismissing the plight of Uighur Muslims in China is tolerated or even accepted in a way that downplaying other real or alleged injustices would never be.  Placating the Chinese due to economic interests seems to be an increasingly-popular global pastime these days.  This has strong 'NBA cracking down on spectators' energy:

Fans at the Australian Open were asked by security to remove T-shirts featuring the slogan "Where is Peng Shuai?" which references the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Chinese former tennis player's well-being and whereabouts. In November, Peng, the former world No. 14 singles player and part of a No. 1 doubles tandem, took to social media platform Weibo and accused Chinese Communist Party member Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into sex. In the weeks following the post, Peng disappeared from social media, sparking concerns over her safety and ability to communicate freely with the rest of the world...On Saturday, a TikTok user uploaded a video in which fans at the Australian Open were approached by security and asked to remove the shirts with the slogan on them. A banner was also seen in the hands of a member of security. In a statement provided to ESPN from Tennis Australia, the organization said its "primary concern" is the safety of Peng Shuai, but added that fans are not allowed to bring onto the grounds or display political statements at the tournament.

Would Tennis Australia really boot out fans wearing t-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "save the planet," "love is love," or "Black Lives Matter"?  I doubt it, despite those certainly counting as "political statements" to one degree or another.  (The NBA also hid behind the 'no politics' excuse in their speech-punishing moves against anti-CCP demonstrators, which is laughable considering the league's overt performative political posturing). "Where is Peng Shuai?" refers to the well-being of a tennis star who accused a CCP boss of sexually assaulting her, later recanting under duress.  Some current and former players are blasting the organization for cowardice, but there are Chinese sponsors to appease.  I think we all know who wins that tug-of-war:

One of the Australian Open's three "associate partners" is liquor company Luzhou Laojiao, which organizers said was the largest Chinese sponsorship deal in the history of the tournament when the sponsorship deal was announced in 2018. "We are delighted to welcome Luzhou Laojiao to the Australian Open partner family, a significant event in the history of our organisation," Tennis Australia's Chief Revenue Officer Richard Heaselgrave. "We've made no secret that China and the region are a major priority for the Australian Open, and that we take our role as the Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific seriously."

Yep, definitely not a secret. guys.  Meanwhile, it would be nice if Western media organizations wouldn't regurgitate Chinese propaganda talking points:


Finally, as the Chinese engage in joint war exercises with the Russians and Iranians (major axis of evil vibes), I'll leave you with this viral tweet from my cousin.  Succinct and true: