(ATR) U.S. Senator and former president of the 2002 Winter Olympics Mitt Romney is proposing an alternative to an athlete boycott to protest China’s human rights record.
"China deserves our condemnation," says Romney in an OpEd published March 15 in the New York Times, citing problems with self-rule for Hong Kong and the treatment of the Uighur ethic population in western China. Speaking from the experience of running the Salt Lake City Olympics, Romney says it’s too late to move the Games.
Romney also rejects a boycott by athletes, noting that they have proven ineffective in the past and only punish athletes.
"Prohibiting our athletes from competing in China is the easy, but wrong, answer. Our athletes have trained their entire lives for this competition and have primed their abilities to peak in 2022. When I helped organize the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, I gained an understanding of the enormous sacrifice made by our Olympic hopefuls and their families. It would be unfair to ask a few hundred young American athletes to shoulder the burden of our disapproval," Romney writes.
Instead he suggests an economic and diplomatic boycott next February with spectators staying home along with government officials.
"American spectators — other than families of our athletes and coaches — should stay at home, preventing us from contributing to the enormous revenues the Chinese Communist Party will raise from hotels, meals and tickets. American corporations that routinely send large groups of their customers and associates to the Games should send them to U.S. venues instead.
"Rather than send the traditional delegation of diplomats and White House officials to Beijing, the president should invite Chinese dissidents, religious leaders and ethnic minorities to represent us," writes Romney.
He also would like to see rights holding broadcaster NBC play a role in the protests over Beijing.
"An economic and diplomatic boycott should include collaboration with NBC, which has already done important work to reveal the reality of the Chinese Communist Party’s repression and brutality. NBC can refrain from showing any jingoistic elements of the opening and closing ceremonies and instead broadcast documented reports of China’s abuses.
"We should enlist our friends around the world to join our economic boycott. Limiting spectators, selectively shaping our respective delegations and refraining from broadcasting Chinese propaganda would prevent China from reaping many of the rewards it expects from the Olympics," says Romney.
Romney suggests high level discussions with the IOC about how cities are chosen as Olympic host cities.
"Finally, America and the nations of the free world need to have a heart-to-heart with the International Olympic Committee. The I.O.C. has hoped that awarding Games to repressive regimes would tend to lessen their abuses. But hope has too often met a different reality — in Hitler’s Germany, Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China. In authoritarian states, the Olympics has more often been a tool of propaganda than a lever of reform," says Romney.
"Let us demonstrate our repudiation of China’s abuses in a way that will hurt the Chinese Communist Party rather than our American athletes: reduce China’s revenues, shut down their propaganda, and expose their abuses. An economic and diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics — while proceeding with the Games — is the right answer," Romney closes.
Resolutions have been filed in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives calling for action against Beijing. No dates have been set for committee hearings, the next step in the legislative process.
Reported by Ed Hula.