West sends mixed signals over Xinjiang, focus of Beijing Games boycott

Manifestação contra a repressão em Xinjiang realizada na semana passada pela Anistia Internacional, perto da Assembleia Nacional da França, em Paris

Demonstration against the repression in Xinjiang held last week by Amnesty International, near the French National Assembly in Paris| Photo: EFE/EPA/YOAN VALAT


Next Friday- fair (4), with the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in 2022, Beijing will become the first city in history to have hosted both the Winter and Summer Olympics (this is in 2022).

However, just like the Moscow Summer Games of

were marked by the boycott of the United States and allies due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Beijing-2022 will begin with the stain of the diplomatic boycott of Americans and other Western countries – athletes will still compete in the Chinese capital, but there will be no presence of authorities from these nations.

The main focus of this protest is the persecution of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Chinese region of Xinjiang.

In December o, the Uighur Court, a people’s court created in London by English lawyer Geoffrey Nice, found that China committed torture, crimes against humanity and genocide against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the region.

The court pointed out that hundreds of thousands of Uighurs (with some estimates putting numbers in excess of 1 million) were detained by the Chinese authorities in recent years and reported situations such as deportation or forced transfer, torture, rape, sexual violence, forced sterilization, persecution and forced disappearance, among others.

The court also concluded that genocide took place in Xinjiang, with policies such as imposing conditions to reduce the number of births of Uighurs (which consisted of orchestrating the immigration of people of the Han ethnic group, the majority in China, and the emigration of Uighurs through imprisonment, thus making it difficult to perpetuate this ethnicity, in addition to being erilizations and forced abortions) and forced transfer of children.

In addition to the boycott diplomatic service to Beijing-2022, US President Joe Biden signed a law in December to ban imports from Xinjiang, due to a “refutable presumption” that all products in the region are manufactured using forced labor. Imports from Xinjiang will only be authorized if there is evidence that the product was not made with forced labor.

In the end, the West sends mixed signals about the repression of the Uighurs, because two recent events suggest that, despite the diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games and the new American law, the concern with this minority is not exactly a priority.

Investor Chamath Palihapitiya caused a stir when declaring in an interview with an American podcast that “nobody cares what is happening to the Uighurs”. “You talk about it because you really care, and I think it’s cool that you really care, the rest of us don’t. I’m just telling a very harsh and ugly truth,” Palihapitiya told the podcast host.

The Golden State Warriors basketball team, of which the investor is a minority partner, hastened to release a statement in which he pointed out that Palihapitiya’s opinions do not reflect those of the team.

Amid much criticism, Palihapitiya backtracked and acknowledged “lack of empathy” in her statements. “As a refugee, my family fled from a country (Sri Lanka) with its own set of human rights issues, so this is something that is part of my life experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or anywhere else. Full stop”, he wrote on Twitter.

Turning a blind eye to violations to human rights

Another recent fact was not a declaration explicit as that of Palihapitiya, but it also provoked a reaction.

On the eve of New Year’s Eve, Tesla, the electric car maker owned by billionaire Elon Musk, opened a showroom in Xinjiang. The Democracy Without Borders movement pointed out in a statement that “the company could lead a movement in defense of democracy and freedom, but chose to ignore this”.

“We understand that by installing itself in a country that clearly does not respect human rights and freedoms, the company reinforces and contributes to acts of violation, since it is ignoring everything that is happening around the factory”, added the movement. “Tesla’s new showroom highlights how China’s economic relevance and the opportunity for business expansion overlap with the protection of human rights.”

On Twitter, Republican Senator Marco Rubio also criticized Musk. “Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party to cover up genocide and slave labor in the region,” he snapped.

In a recent article for the BBC website, journalist Robin Brant pointed out that the Tesla-Xinjiang relationship is just a sample of an uncomfortable reality: with an eye on lower production costs and huge Chinese market, large Western corporations have for years ignored human rights violations in China – Volkswagen, for example, has a factory in Xinjiang, Brant recalled.

“China’s leaders say the Winter Games are about getting above political issues. It’s a distinction that some of the companies looking to expand or establish themselves in what they see as an irresistible market want you to make as well,” he concluded.