Sen. Rick Scott: Address human rights or get the Olympics out of China

April 8, 2020

Washington Examiner
Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
April 8, 2020

For two-and-a-half weeks every two years, the world stops and watches. The Olympic Games give us an opportunity to cheer for our country and our favorite athletes, and for a short time, our political and geopolitical differences fade into the background as we celebrate athletic talent and our shared values.

In fact, the charter of the International Olympic Committee states that the fundamental principles of Olympism include “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity” and creating “a way of life based on … social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

The Olympics are also an opportunity for the host country to shine — to highlight its values, its people, and its leadership.

How, then, does the IOC justify allowing communist China to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, an event meant to promote a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity? The communist government is denying basic rights to the people of Hong Kong, cracking down on protesters, journalists, and dissidents, holding 1 million Uighurs in concentration camps because of their religion, and continuing to lie about the spread of the coronavirus.

In October, I sent a letter to the IOC detailing China’s human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and the people of Hong Kong. Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, responded by saying the IOC must remain “politically neutral.”

That answer is unacceptable. This isn’t about politics; this is about human rights.

I’m reminded of the old axiom that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

In 2019, the world watched as thousands of Hong Kongers were imprisoned merely for protesting the erosion of freedom and autonomy they were guaranteed. The Hong Kong police fired more than 16,000 rounds of tear gas during peaceful protests.

Starting with his visit to Xinjiang in 2014, General Secretary Xi Jinping has led a charge to persecute the Uighur Muslims living in the region. Simply because of their religion, more than 1 million Uighurs are facing torture in internment camps designed to erase their cultural identity.

Xi’s persecution of the Uighurs has been so abhorrent that 22 different countries, four of which are represented on the IOC’s Executive Board, wrote a joint letter condemning their treatment.

To add to the list, foreign journalists are regularly harassed and abused by the Chinese government in an effort to suppress freedom of the press. In February, three Wall Street Journal reporters were expelled from the country. In March, reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Time, and Voice of America were banned from working in China.

Since 2015, China has led a campaign against human rights lawyers, detaining or revoking the licenses of hundreds of attorneys, further restricting access to legal representation for citizens considered political dissidents.

And now, in the last few months, the world has been faced with the scourge of the coronavirus, a global pandemic that, while not entirely preventable, has done considerably more damage to the world economy and public health because of communist China’s unwillingness to be open, honest, and transparent.

China lied, and thousands of people died.

The actions of Xi and the Chinese Communist Party fly in the face of the fundamental values that unite freedom-loving countries around the world — values that the Olympic Games are meant to foster and promote.

For the billions watching and yearning for a better future, we must again lead by example by insisting that China live up to the ethos of the Olympic Charter.

The IOC has an obligation to create an environment where athletes feel safe to compete. And we all have an obligation to use one of the world’s biggest stages to speak out when host countries do not create a safe environment for their own people.

Last month, I introduced a resolution with Sen. Ed Markey and a bipartisan coalition of our colleagues that gives China a choice: Clean up its human rights abuses, or have the IOC take the 2022 games out of China and rebid them to a country that values and respects human rights. The role communist China played in the spread of the coronavirus has only strengthened our case.

I stand with the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong, the historically persecuted people of Tibet, peaceful communities of Chinese Muslims including Uighurs, Falun Gong, and the journalists and political dissidents in China.

I hope every freedom-loving country joins us in demanding that the IOC rebid the 2022 Olympic Games should China fail to abandon its indefensible course.

Rick Scott, a Republican, is the junior senator from Florida. You can follow him on Twitter: @SenRickScott