The disappearance of Chinese tennis champion Peng Shuai and Beijing’s censorship of her allegations of sexual assault from the public sharpen focus on China’s handling of human rights as the country prepares to host the upcoming Winter Olympics.
The Womens Tennis Association (WTA), which governs the global women’s tennis tour, has threatened to withdraw its business from China over concerns over Pengs’ safety, marking one of the strongest responses to date from the sports world and foreign countries that increasingly outraged by Beijing’s actions.
Our relationship with China is at a crossroads, WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement after Chinese state media released images and video of Peng allegedly dining out after going missing earlier this month.
Simon called the video insufficient to confirm the safety and well-being of Pengs.
It was the first time Peng had been seen in public in nearly three weeks, having been largely out of sight after posting allegations of sexual assault against China’s former deputy prime minister on social media.
China’s Great Firewall of internet censorship has scrapped any reference to Pengs’ allegations online and has taken offline international newscasts discussing her situation.
Pengs’ treatment has added to the growing list of convictions and concerns about human rights violations and provocations in China.
They include the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, which the US and some other countries have labeled as genocide; suppression of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong; its military provocations against Taiwan; Chinese control of Tibet; hindering investigations into the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic; and aggressive stance on the international stage, from economics to trade to cyber-attacks.
The Biden administration says it is closely monitoring the situation around Peng but has postponed it when asked if the US was preparing to take a stand against China’s host of the Olympics in February.
I have nothing new to tell you about the Olympics, White House Press Secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiPsaki: 99 percent of WH officials vaccinated against COVID-19 Biden plan to run for reelection in 2024, Psaki says CNN is broadcasting live footage of tennis star reporting being censored in China MORE reporters said Monday. It is clear that human rights and the handling of human rights in China is something that we are watching closely and the world is watching closely.
President BidenJoe BidenRittenhouse says Biden vilified his character when he associated him with white supremacists. has put forward the prospect of a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, but the government has not released a timeline of when such a decision will be announced, frustrating critics who say the president needs to work harder on the issue.
representative Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse GOP tries to stop Biden from reopening Palestinian mission in Jerusalem. Anxiety, Insecurity and Politics of Havana Syndrome MORE (R-Texas), the chief member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Monday that “it is well past the time for the Biden administration to take a forward-thinking policy stance on the Olympics and prepare athletes for the hostile environment they will enter.
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of human rights organization PEN America and member of the Foreign Policy for America advisory board, argued that the international community has significant influence on China with the Olympics and should criticize Beijing’s behavior.
I think it’s extremely important to be outspoken on the issue of Peng Shuai, in particular, and on China’s record more broadly, because with the Chinese influence all over the world just expanding, it’s an alternate universe in terms of their value system and their disrespect for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to dissent, freedom of the press, she said.
At a time like this, where you have a high-profile business, you have a high-stakes event that Beijing is very eager to keep running smoothly. They will be showcased prominently, they want to look good I think there is real leverage in this situation, she added.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called on Biden to consider a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, including Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden says he’s ‘considering’ diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics GOP senators shocked by ‘ridiculous’ house strife (R-Utah), who spearheaded an amendment passed by the Senate in June that would mandate a diplomatic boycott in light of China’s ongoing human rights abuses. Speaker Nancy PelosicNancy PelosiNo Responsibility for US Carbon Footprint Christie: McCarthy, Not Trump, Will Be Next President Judge Says Gore, Unlike Trump, Was ‘a Man’ and Accepted Election Loss MORE (D-Calif.) also supported a diplomatic boycott in May.
Romney, in an op-ed in March, cited former President Carters’ decision to boycott the 1980 Games in Moscow entirely, arguing that, unlike then, American athletes should be allowed to compete in Beijing.
However, some of Romney’s GOP colleagues are calling for the games to be completely blacklisted. Sens. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonBiden says he is “considering” a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. (Ark.) and Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSunday Previews: Boosters Open to All US Adults; House Dems Passes Spending Plan to Senate Photos of the Week: President Biden, Kenosha Protests, and Pardons Peanut Butter Overnight Defense & National Security A New Plan to Treat Marines ‘Like Humans’ MORE (Tenn.) called on Biden to implement a complete boycott of the Winter Olympics and for Team USA athletes not to participate.
Yet some argue that such firm stances, including a boycott, may fuel rather than dampen global tensions and have little impact on behavior.
I think Bidens is playing it right by lowering expectations, saying he could carry out a diplomatic boycott, but essentially giving [Chinese] President Xi has a few months to fix some of these issues and hopefully prevent that from happening, said Michael O Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The bottom line is that if something serious has just happened that makes you feel like you just can’t do what you’re used to at that point, you’re likely to be boycotted; otherwise, I probably wouldn’t say, he said.
Nossel agreed that the decision for Biden to take specific action against China and the Olympics is a delicate one.
“They are trying to weigh up whether they want to blow up the relationship at this sensitive time, and I can understand their hesitation in doing so,” she said, adding that the WTA “really stands out for its determination and determination. “
This approach seems to mirror that of US allies who have tried to oppose mixing sports with geopolitics, arguing that sanctions against Beijing for human rights violations do not hinder cooperation in other areas.
Okay, we’ve imposed sanctions, but we’re not stopping trade with China, Franck Riester, France’s deputy foreign trade and economy minister, told The Hill in Washington when asked about concerns about participating in the Beijing-organized Olympics.
Riester went on to say that he is very careful about using sports to exert diplomatic or political pressure in any sense.
But some athletes speak out. Tennis icons Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have made urgent pleas to verify Pengs’ safety, tweeting #WhereisPengShuai.
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter, who has been outspoken about human rights violations in China, reiterated his call for the Olympics to be moved in light of the Peng situation.
The sports community needs to wake up and speak up. We must realize that the authoritarian Chinese government is not our friend. The Communist Party is a ruthless dictatorship that has used economic power to achieve ideological and political compliance, he wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal.
All the gold medals in the world are not worth selling your values and principles to the Chinese Communist Party, he added.
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