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Allowing China to host the Olympics would be a mistake

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It worked for Hitler. The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin provided the Nazis with propaganda and legitimacy. The opposition in Germany was weaker after the Olympics than it was before them. In fact, while the games were in progress, the Nazis used slave labor to build a huge new concentration camp near Sachsenhausen.

And now, the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing provide a perfect opportunity to repeat that mistake.

Today’s China under Xi Jinping is more than a bit like Hitler’s Germany in 1936. We have the dictator without term limit. We have the arbitrary incarceration of political enemies. We have the ban on religion. We have an aggressive, even vengeful, foreign policy. The Chinese Communist Party secretary described the Uyghur terrorists as “rats to be hunted down and ‘slaughtered’.” But while Germany in 1936 was on the brink of genocide against a people the Nazis called vermin, China is already in the middle. of one. And President Joe Biden has already acknowledged this openly and publicly.

Since 1948, genocide has been considered a crime under international law. Almost 150 countries have, by signing the United Nations Genocide Convention, accepted an obligation not only to punish genocide, but also to prevent it. The United States is one of those countries. There is no exception for sporting events. Yet China has the privilege of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics and Biden does not seem inclined to deny them that privilege.

Of course, there are reasons to participate in the Beijing Olympics. They just aren’t good enough.

For example, the Olympic Games are seen by some as a kind of gateway to liberalization. As Dick Pound, member of the International Olympic Committee, wrote in his book “Inside the Olympics”: “The decision to give the 2008 Games to China was taken in the hope of improving human rights. man and, indeed, the Chinese themselves have said that will accelerate progress in these areas. I think we can drop that point here.

It can also be argued that the Olympics are simply not and should not be about politics or even human rights. That might have been true back in the days of the Chariots of Fire, but it isn’t now. China seeks the Olympics for explicitly political reasons and can therefore rightly be denied these Games for political reasons. Either way, those 150 signatories to the United Nations Genocide Convention have accepted an obligation that surely outweighs any “obligation” to send their dedicated and hardworking athletes to the Olympics.

Another argument is that the United States has its own human rights issues and has no problem getting so high and powerful with China. Of course, the United States has its own human rights issues, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t yet have the opportunity and obligation to make moral choices.

Politics is a world of compromise and even more international politics. This is in fact often one of its selling points: Compromises are more often than not better than violence and war. But there must be a limit, and if the genocide does not exceed that limit, what is it? We can settle for promises from politicians “no new taxes” and then raise taxes. We can be content with politicians promising us that we can keep our doctor and then find out that we can’t. Can we be satisfied with the massacres to date, involuntary sterilizations, and currently more than a million ethnic Uyghurs in China interned in “re-education camps” – not to mention what China has in store for its people. various “vermins”? We can, but we certainly shouldn’t.

Todd L. Pittinsky is Professor at Stony Brook University and Distinguished Fellow of the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County. Her most recent book, with Barbara Kellerman, is “Leaders Who Lust: Power, Money, Sex, Success, Legitimacy, Legacy”.

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