A top British official dropped a hint today that the UK might boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in order to protest China’s treatment of its Uighur minority.
When it comes to symbolism, sure, Olympic boycotts rank right up there. When it comes to forcing change, Olympic boycotts simply don’t work.
If the British government truly believes that keeping its Olympic athletes home in 2022 will do anything to compel the Chinese to alter their disgusting policies toward the Muslims Uighurs, then someone needs to deliver a dose of reality to No. 10 Downing Street.
International condemnation hasn’t done anything to rein in China’s brutality. Claims of genocide haven’t moved the needle. Sanctions have been met with defiance. These efforts haven’t worked, at least not yet, but they at least carry the imprimatur of realistic international calls to stop the horrific treatment.
The bitter reality is that until the international community finds the right combination of meaningful penalties, nothing is going to compel China to treat the Uighurs with respect.
Olympic boycotts — however much they make us want to say “See, we’re showing them who’s boss! — don’t do anything. Consider any Olympic boycott you want, most especially the 1980 U.S.-led effort against the Moscow Olympics, and you’ll find that no demonstrative success followed.
Symbolic? Sure. The moral high ground? Absolutely. Constructive? Nope.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.