Despite evidence of human rights abuses from the Chinese Communist Party, the 2022 Winter Olympics are still set to take place in Beijing, China, next month. Ahead of these events, at least one country has warned their athletes about the threats they may face.
According to Reuters, the Dutch Olympic Committee has told its athletes not to bring any personal phones or computers when they travel to Beijing, citing cybersecurity concerns.
“The importance of cybersecurity of course has grown over the years,” committee spokesman Geert Slot said. “But China has completely closed off its internet, which makes it a specific case.”
The direction was part of a larger plan developed by officials from the Netherlands in hopes of protecting their athletes from Chinese surveillance.
Instead of using their personal devices, Dutch athletes will be provided unused phones and computers in China to ensure their personal data is not stolen, Reuters reported.
As a general rule, it may not be smart to send your athletes to a country where you believe the government is going to spy on them. While the Netherlands’ decision to send the athletes may seem unwise, the country at least made it clear they do not trust the Chinese government.
At least five countries have announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics, Axios reported, which means they will not send a delegation of government officials to Beijing for the event.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced in December 2021 that the United States would participate in such a boycott.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” she said.
“The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games.”
The second portion of Psaki’s statement represents the main problem. While the U.S. can pretend to make a statement by announcing a “diplomatic boycott,” the fact that the country is still sending athletes shows how hollow this gesture is.
Later in her remarks, Psaki said the Biden administration could not treat the games like “business as usual” because of China’s abuses. Yet in effect, that is exactly what the U.S. is doing.
Holding back government officials from making an appearance at the Olympics is not going to have any sort of substantial effect on China or the games. As long as countries still send their athletes, the Olympics will still go on, and the Chinese Communist Party will profit because of it.
Despite their concerns about China, Dutch officials have not even gone as far the United States and issued a diplomatic boycott, even though that in and of itself is not even going very far.
Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Knapen said in December the Netherlands was undecided on a boycott, Reuters reported in a separate article.
“We need to speak to our European companions to see what we will do collectively,” Knapen said. “We would favor to see a standard European response.”
While the move would be largely symbolic, it would at least send a message that China’s abuses will not be ignored.
Instead, the European Union is more worried about its pocketbooks.
According to ESPN, the EU is holding out on a boycott because it is “fearful of Chinese retaliation that would hurt trade.” In the end, that’s what it all comes down to.
Countries can announce boycotts and criticize China all they want, but it is clear the motivation for many is sheer money. As long as these countries are on China’s payroll, they will not take any meaningful action against the communist regime, even if that means they must put their own athletes in danger.