Beijing Olympics: the inevitable question of human rights

Editorial of the “World”. In China, eliminating those who are not in line with the Communist Party or who harm its interests is a classic practice. The lack of news of tennis player Peng Shuai, who publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of raping her, once again shows that China is going to stop at nothing to protect its dignitaries.

Peng Shuai posted her accusations in early November on Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, while saying she was under no illusions about the effectiveness of her testimony. The man she accuses of rape was indeed one of the seven permanent members of the Chinese Communist Party’s political bureau from 2013 to 2018, during the first term of Xi Jinping’s presidency. Attacking a character of such rank could only bring the worst trouble to one of the few Chinese players of international class and considered until then as a national heroine.

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Censorship was immediate: The message and the reactions to it vanished from the internet within minutes, while state media remained silent on the matter until a Chinese TV station claimed that the player had reconsidered her accusations – statements whose authenticity is more than doubtful.

Distrust of the #metoo movement

The reaction is hardly surprising from a regime that remains very suspicious of the #metoo movement. Chinese authorities believe that the phenomenon is based on a purely “Western” conception of relations between men and women. This “drift” would be likely to threaten the patriarchy which characterizes the functioning of the Communist Party and most of the country’s institutions. Trials for sexual harassment remain extremely rare and when they do occur, the verdicts are even more rarely favorable to the victims.

This question takes on another dimension two months before the Beijing Winter Olympics: the Chinese authorities cannot claim the organization of competitions. international organizations while continuing to use old-fashioned methods to silence athletes who bother him.

The question of the attitude to adopt vis-à-vis Beijing remains unresolved. The United Nations (UN) requires proof that the champion is doing well, without specifying what consequences Beijing is exposed to otherwise. The players of the international circuit are expressing their emotion on social networks, but are they ready to boycott the tournaments organized in China? The WTA (World Women’s Tennis Federation) is the most threatening, saying it is ready to cease its activities in the country.

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During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Europe and the United States still looked optimistically on a China whose tremendous economic growth and speed of development impressed and, it was hoped, would sooner or later lead to a political opening. Thirteen years later, Western illusions have been shattered about Xi Jinping’s concentration of power and the regime’s authoritarian orientation.

Even before the Peng Shuai case gained momentum, US President Joe Biden had considered a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing to protest against human rights violations in China. That would consist of not sending government officials to represent Washington, while still letting American athletes compete. This possibility is turning into a virtual certainty. This is an option that European delegations may also have to examine quickly.

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Beijing Olympics: the inevitable question of human rights

The Inside News Hyderabad